Honeybee (Apis mellifera) feeders are as varied as the types of plants honeybees pollinate – and each has its own pros and cons. Regardless of the style you prefer, you must supply the food in a way that the bees can access it, yet prevents other bees and insects from stealing the food and causing turmoil. Several styles are effective; plastic bag feeders are very simple, but jar and bucket feeders have advantages.
Fending for Themselves
Wild honeybees obtain nectar and pollen from flowers in the vicinity of their hive. They bring it back to the hive, where some provides immediate sustenance to the workers, queens, drones and larvae, while some is stored for later use. However, in the late fall, the nectar stops flowing in the flowers and will not start back up until the spring. To survive the interim period, honeybees live off honey – stored, concentrated nectar. If the colony has not stored enough food, a large portion of the colony may die off.
Bucket feeders are the easiest type of feeders to maintain, but even with precautions, they are a drowning hazard for bees. Place a 5-gallon bucket on the ground, in a location that is convenient to both you and the bees. Fill the bucket with about 1 gallon of food and install a “float” that falls as the bees consume the syrup. The best float is a thin piece of plastic, cut into a circle that barely fits inside the bucket – the tighter the float fits the bucket, the fewer bees will drown. Drill a few holes through the plastic to provide the bees with access to the food. Because bucket feeders rest outside of the hive, they may draw other bees and insects from the surrounding area.
Inverted Jar Feeders
Use an inverted jar with holes punched into the lid to feed your bees. Though a few drops may spill, the air pressure outside the jar will prevent most of the syrup from leaking out. Before filling the jar, use a finishing nail to puncture several small holes in the jar lid. Punch the holes from the top of the lid, so that the sharp edges are inside the jar. You can either devise a way to suspend the jar inside the hive, or hang it outside the box.
Simple, Easy and Effective
Plastic bag feeders are a favorite of many apiculturists for their simplicity. (Use a gallon sized plastic bag with a zipper-style top to contain the food. Fill the bag with food appropriate for the season, and seal the top. Place the bag flat on one of its sides, and slice a long slit down the top side of the bag. Place the bag in its intended location and replace as necessary. Plastic bag feeders are very effective because they kill very few bees.
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