Three Options to Feed New Honeybee Colonies

Reader Contribution by Julia Miller

A new package of honeybees starting on completely new foundation require a considerable amount of sugar water to become established. At Five Feline Farm, we have tried three different types of feeders and developed a preference.

Boardman Feeders

First are the entrance feeders also referred to as Boardman feeders. Sugar water is held in a glass jar with a perforated lid that fits into a small flat box. The feeder inserts part way into the opening of the hive. Bees access it from inside the hive as the syrup drips slowly through the lid.

For our purposes, this is not an efficient method of feeding. Most significantly we found the syrup had to be replenished at least once if not twice a day. The second reason we have moved away from this style of feeder is the risk of robbers. The location of the feeder is external to the hive so predators such as raccoons and skunks may be attracted to the syrup.

Frame Feeders

The second style of feeder we have tried is a frame feeder. This is a plastic container in roughly the same size and shape as a brood frame. These hold a surprising gallon of liquid. Each feeder replaces an outer frame of the brood box.

The advantage of these feeders is the quantity each holds and the internal position is less likely to attract robbers. The downside is the hive must be opened to fill the feeders. In addition even though there are ridges on the sides of the container, bees still drown as they climb down to access the sugar water.

Top Feeders

This year we are using a top feeder. It is a box about the size of a honey super with a divided chamber. There are floating baffles that bees can land on as they lap up the syrup. Each side holds a little over a gallon and there is a separation between the chambers where bees come up from the brood box to drink.

The frame feeder has some distinct advantages for our operation. Although the lid needs to be opened to fill the feeder, it can be done quickly and easily without disturbing the brood. The internal position of the feeder keeps the sugar water safer from intruders.Until the colony is established and numbers increased, it is difficult for them to defend their hive.

The new colonies consume up to two gallons a week. As they become established and the brood increases, foragers begin scouting nectar and pollen is in the surrounding area. At that point, approximately 4-5 weeks after installation, we begin weaning them off the sugar syrup and remove the feeders.

Here at Five Feline Farm, we are continually learning how to be better beekeepers. As we learn, we enjoy sharing with others through our blog posts,Facebook pageand website. On our websitewww.FiveFelineFarm.comyou will find information about the rest of our hobby farm.