One of the lessons I learned the hard way through a colony collapse in a drought year was that I could never be too aggressive with feeding the bees. This year I put that theory to work even though we had an abundant rainy season and the spring growth was off the chart.
There are many options for hivetop feeders, ranging from fully integrated units to simple mason jars with a perforated lid and turned upside down on the inner cover inside of an empty medium body. Hive opening feeders are popular and easy to maintain but I am concerned about stimulating robbing behaviors that arise from having readily available food for any bee that happens to be in the neighborhood.
I settled on a Beemax hivetop feeder. Beemax offers a complete line of polystyrene hive components and the hivetop feeder they offer is available in a version suitable for traditional wooden hive bodies.
Here are the top 3 reasons why I selected this feeder:
- Capacity: It holds up to 4 gallons of feed, which is very substantial. With a single hive body, 1 gallon of feed will last for an entire week. What this means is that I spend less time checking the hive to make sure the feeder still have syrup in it.
- Polystyrene: This one piece unit is watertight and does not require a liner. The syrup, even when filled with several gallons, has proven resistant to mold and cleaning it is a matter of hosing it off.
- Minimal drownings: The bees quickly figure out how to navigate the opening and work their way down to the syrup. On any given week I will find 5-6 drowned bees, a remarkably small number.