Burr Comb

Today’s the day I removed all the feeders from my hives.

I placed a hive top feeder over a rim on one of my hives about a month ago. I removed the feeder today and found burr comb built up over the top bars, the bees filling in the space I created with the rim.

Burr comb built up over the top bars. (Oct. 23, 2016.)

Burr comb built up over the top bars. (Oct. 23, 2016.)

My best guess is the bees ran out of room for the syrup, so they began building comb above the top bars so they could fill it with syrup.
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A Screened Hive Top Feeder

Last year I posted a video of a simple modification I make to hive top feeders that prevents bees from drowning in them. I staple screen over the syrup reservoirs and along the bottom edge inside the reservoirs so there is no way the bees can get into the reservoirs and drown.

If the screen above the reservoirs extended over the entrance area of the feeder (the part where the bees come up to access the syrup, whatever part that’s called), then the bees would also be contained inside the hive. I didn’t have enough screen to do all that recently, but I did add some screen to the entrance area of the feeder so it looks like this:

Hive top feeder with screen stapled over the area where the bees comes up. (Oct. 02, 2016.)

Hive top feeder with screen stapled over the area where the bees comes up. (Oct. 02, 2016.)

And guess what? It works.
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Nuc Colony Packed with Bees

I bought three nucs from the Newfoundland Bee Company in mid-July and today, two and a half months later, each of the subsequent hives are overflowing with bees. Here’s a not-so-great photo I snapped during a marathon beekeeping session that shows what I found in one of them when I opened it today. I even found two frames of capped brood in the top deep of this hive. I’ve never had nuc-hives so full of bees at this time of year before.

A hive packed with bees after reducing it to 2 deeps four days ago. I found 2 frames of capped brood in the top box too.  That queen is on fire.  (Sept. 30, 2016.)

A hive packed with bees after reducing it to 2 deeps four days ago. I found 2 frames of capped brood in the top box too. That queen is on fire. (Sept. 30, 2016.)

I have to applaud the Newfoundland Bee Company. The queens that came with their nucs are incredible. I probably could have gotten a honey harvest from these hives if I had thought to super them up. My only concern is that there are too many bees in the hive and they’ll eat through their winter honey stores too fast. I know the cluster will reduce in size by the time November rolls around, but at the moment it would be one seriously gigantic cluster.
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Honey Bees Drinking From a Hive Top Feeder

Another example of the wonderful things to be found on Twitter and other social networking sites under the hashtag #NLbees:

2016-09-04 14.40.05

Click the images for a better view.

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A Kill-Free Hive Top Feeder

Here’s a video of a simple modification I’ve made to most of my hive top feeders that helps reduce the likelihood of drowning. I put screens in and over the syrup reservoirs. It makes refilling the feeders easier too.

I have no love for hive top feeders. They can be heavy and messy and a farcical tragedy when things go wrong. But this simple and cheap modification virtually transforms them into kill-free feeders and, at least in my experience, makes them easier to use. It also allows me to put various rims over the feeder, or anything I want over the feeder, without risk of drowning any bees. There’s no reason the screen can’t cover the entire top of the feeder so the bees can’t get out at all. Obsessive-compulsive mad scientist beekeepers (a significant portion of the beekeeping demographic) could easily build on this design so that the feeder virtually refills itself. I can already imagine how that could work, but I digress.

SEPTEMBER 09, 2015: Apparently I’ve written about this modification before: Leaking Hive Top Feeders.

OCTOBER 10, 2016: In Screened Hive Top Feeder, I improve on this modification by moving the screen to the middle of the feeder.

Hive Top Feeder = Drowned Bees

PREFACE (OCTOBER 08, 2015): See my Kill-Free Hive Top Feeder video on how to prevent drowning in hive top feeders.

I added a hive top feeder to Hive #2 ten days ago. Many bees lost their lives to the siren song of the sugar syrup. But a few hundred dead bees won’t kill the hive.

I’ll remove the top hive feeders from both hives in a few days and replace them with inverted jar feeders for another week before I wrap up the hives for winter. As one beekeeper online told me, “The bees can cluster right up to the bottom of the [inverted jar] feeder and continue to feed without breaking cluster.” Not having to break cluster at this time of the year doesn’t hurt (it rarely gets above 10° C these days). The next time I use the hive top feeders (late winter, early spring), I’ll add some straw or cork for the bees to float on so not as many drown. I’ll probably add screens to the reservoirs to keep wasps out too. Anyway, here’s a short video of the drowned bees:
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Fall Hives

I’m posting this short video for my own records so I have something to compare next year’s new hives to. I started two hives from 3-frame nuc boxes (4 frames actually, but one frame was empty) on July 18th, which was 89 days ago. It’s now mid-October and the bees are still active — when the sun is shining on the hives. The sun is shining on them as I write this. The temperature is 12°C, each hive has a top hive feeder installed over the inner cover, and the bees are flying around the entrances of both hives. Looking good. Here’s what they looked like a few days ago on October 12th:


THIS VIDEO SHOULD BE VIEWED IN THE 480p SETTING. THE LOWER SETTING IS PRETTY BAD.

Adding a Hive Top Feeder

I added a hive top feeder to Hive #2 today. I also checked the hive top feeder on Hive #1 which has had a feeder installed for about a week now with about 6 litres of syrup in one side. That feeder may have had a slight leak. I noticed a clump of bees and wasps hanging around one spot between the inner cover and the feeder for a couple days. I’d brush them away and they’d fly back to the exact spot immediately. Here’s what it looked like:

Then today as I was about to check the hive — this is a completely different topic — I noticed these dead bees and wasps outside the bottom entrance:
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