Bees store up food reserves for the cold season, when flowers whither and pollen becomes scarce. The bee menu begins and ends with honey, a substance bees produce by regurgitating nectar to produce a sweet food source they store within the hive. Feeding bees a sugar water “nectar” in a do-it-yourself bee feeder is a great means of attracting pollinating bees and, for the beekeeper, to help underperforming colonies through the winter.
A jar feeder requires only its namesake supply: a jar. You can use any size, from a jelly jar to a gallon-size pickle jar; but no matter the size, thoroughly clean it with a new lid to ensure the best seal possible. Hammer three or four holes small enough for a bee's tongue -- an eighth-inch or smaller -- with a small nail, then invert the tightly lidded jar, either hanging it or resting it on a base that allows bees access to the feeder lid. The jar feeder, like all feeders, should be filled with a sugar-to-water mixture that ranges from 1-to-2 to 3-to-1, depending on the time of year.
A pail feeder is similar in design to a jar feeder but with the benefit of being bigger, requiring fewer refills. Be careful, though, as it's also heavier and, if spilled, creates a lot more waste. Procure a non-leeching, BPA-free pail and fill it with the desired ratio of sugar to water bee food, then, as with the jar feeder, poke six or seven holes in the lid in a tight grouping. Once the pail is filled with sugar water, affix the lid securely and carefully invert the feeder. Pail feeders are a favorite of beekeepers, who place them in empty supers atop hives.
DIY projects don't get much easier than the baggie feeder -- just a food-grade, zip-top bag three-quarters filled with bee food and made available to bees in a hive. Place the baggie of feed on top of a hive or, if you're trying to attract wild bees to a yard, set it in an outside area, then, with a razor, cut two or three slits in the bag, about 4 inches in length, away from baggie edges and running parallel to the entrance. A baggie feeder in a hive should have an empty super around it, which provides room and protects against other insects finding it.
Candy Board Feeder
A candy board feeder is a box frame built to fit an existing hive, with an entrance hole drilled into the front and hardware cloth affixed with poultry staples to create a bottom. Line the frame with newspaper to create a floor the bees will eventually eat through. Mix a half-tablespoon of vinegar, 1½ cups of water and 8 pounds of sugar, then pour it onto the frame's newspaper floor. Once the sugar hardens, place the candy board in the hive and replace the inner and outer covers.
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