27 responses

  1. Phillip
    April 10, 2011

    The top hive feeder on Hive #1 is leaking. Great. I can’t do anything about it today. I’ll check again tomorrow and then decide what to do.

  2. Phillip
    April 10, 2011

    I’ve updated this post twice already. I have a feeling I’ll update it 3 or 4 more times before I’m done with it.

  3. Phillip
    April 11, 2011

    I just checked. One of the top hive feeders is leaking. At least it looks that way. NOTE TO SELF: Check the top hive feeders for leaks before installing them. The bottom board is coated with syrup now. It could be spilled syrup, but I don’t think so.

    I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it.

    What a royal headache this has turned into. Does everything in beekeeping have to be fraught with complications? That’s how it seems at times.

    I may remove the top hive feeder and replace it with an inverted jar feeder — which was my original plan to begin with. I should have stuck with my original plan. Blah.

  4. Phillip
    April 11, 2011

    I just made the final update to this post, or what I hope is the final update. It’s been the messiest biggest headache of our beekeeping experience so far. We won’t be buying top hive feeders again.

  5. Rusty
    April 11, 2011

    The times my bees have made the crackling noise, I have looked inside the hive to find the entrance reducers totally rounded–almost like they had been “eaten” away. Since then I’ve associated the sound with a sort of honey bee carpentry, although I don’t know how they do it.

    • Phillip
      April 11, 2011

      I looked further into it and read similar explanations. Though I’m not sure what the bees could have been chewing on because the sound was coming from the top of the hive. They didn’t do it for long and they’re acting like normal bees since I installed the jar feeders.

  6. Rusty
    April 11, 2011

    I have seven of those plastic inserts I never use. Each time I’ve tried the bees have found a surreptitious way to get between the screen and the plastic into the syrup. Absolutely thousands have drowned. I have tried re-bending, re-shaping, and re-fastening the screen to no avail. The whole experience was heart-breaking.

    • Phillip
      April 11, 2011

      The regular top hive feeders are no picnic either. This is what happened the last time I used them:


      If I could stop them from leaking, I think I could make modifications that would keep the bee out of the main reservoirs — that’s the real danger zone.

      I’m not sure what to do. I may stick with big jar feeders.

  7. Donna Frizzell
    April 11, 2011

    Hello Phillip,
    You have to put caulking all along the seams on the bottom board..I make top feeders for Donna and I varnish them as well as add caulking, hope this helps….
    Cheers Harold

    • Phillip
      April 11, 2011

      Thanks Harold. I’ll give it a try.

  8. Phillip
    April 12, 2011

    Poking around online, it seems leaking top hive feeders — well, it seems that leaking is what top hive feeders do. (I also noticed they’re called hive top feeders most of the time. I’ve been saying it the other way around.) What annoys me is that I used these feeders only once for a brief time last year. And they’re already full of leaks? I question the quality of the craftsmanship.

    I’ll try to fix the leaks as soon as I can. I’ll caulk up the leaks and maybe put on a little coating of bees wax. I can think of a few other modifications to prevent excessive drowning. My Popsicle sticks idea is simple and probably effective (I didn’t get a chance to test it).


    There should also be a barrier at the bottom of the well to stop the bees from getting into the main reservoir. Perhaps a screen down there. The screen on top of the reservoirs will prevent wasps from getting in while refilling, though a flat removable screen in a frame would make it easier for fixing leaks, instead of having the tear the screen off every time. Anyway, it can’t be that hard to come up with a better feeder.

    The plastic insert feeders — there must be way to prevent drowning in those too. I’ve read that some bees don’t take to them because they don’t like crawling up over plastic. If that was the case, I’d brush the plastic with some melted bees wax. The bees seem to like bees wax.

  9. Jeff
    April 12, 2011

    what is a good flavouring agent for sugar syrup to get the bees into eating some of the sugar substitute. I meant to purchase anise but ended up getting vanilla instead. What are my options?

    Thanks Phil.

    • Phillip
      April 12, 2011

      Don’t get artificial flavouring. The other flavouring besides Anise that supposedly drives them wild is peppermint / spearmint.

      My bees didn’t really touch the syrup from the hive top feeder, though they didn’t have much time to check it out. And they were probably happy sopping up all the leaking syrup. My syrup has natural vanilla added. Anise seems more pungent. I can see how it would get their attention.

      Rusty says, “Whenever I have bees that won’t drink their sugar syrup, I place one or two drops of anise oil in the feed. The next morning the feeder is empty. It never fails.”

  10. Jeff
    April 12, 2011

    I think the bulk barn carries that.

    • Phillip
      April 12, 2011

      It’s listed on their website, so I assume they do. I’m sticking with the jar feeders for now, will mix up some syrup with Anise seed oil if I can fix up the hive top feeders.

  11. Jeff
    April 13, 2011

    On a side note the boxes are made. I still have to build the covers and bottoms. Didn’t get to finish those Saturday for other reasons.

    • Phillip
      April 13, 2011

      That’s excellent. I look forward to checking them out.

      I’m thinking about building a screened bottom board for one of my hives this summer just to see how the bees react to it. I don’t think anyone uses them in NL, but I get the impression that’s because no one’s ever tried them. I’ve got plenty of screen and they don’t look too hard to build. My only concern is that they might attract more wasps, and I get plenty of wasps as it is. We’ll see.

      I’m impressed with the bees in both hives these days. They were coming and going the other day like it was the middle of summer, and there were lots of them, all small and fuzzy, which means the queens have been laying.

      I won’t know until the first inspection sometime in May, but if their populations are bouncing back this fast, making splits may not be an option — it’ll become an necessity.

      Or I might just let the brood nest of each hive expand into a medium super, and then combine the two mediums into a single hive. That’s only if the populations explode.

  12. Phillip
    April 13, 2011

    8°C outside. 12:30pm. Sunny. I just checked on the hives. They’re both moderately active. But neither has taken down any syrup yet. It looks like they haven’t even touched it. They didn’t get into the hive top feeders when I had those on too. They went for some of the syrup dripping down all over everything, but none were in the actual feeder.

    I wonder what that means.

  13. Jeff
    April 13, 2011

    Still may be to cold for the bees to break cluster. Especially if there is any amount of brood. I still have teh candy board on then the inner cover on top. Then the boarman feeders inside a super and they are yet tome up to those feeders. I am afraid to place teh jar over the hole in case some of the syrup drips down onto the bees below and chills them. It is still to cold to allow syrup to drip down over for my comfort. Unfortunatly I dont; get home until late afternoon so I miss most of the activityes with the hive.

    Once the ambient temperature warms up enough I am going to install a thrid super with some empty foundation and some frame feeders in the hope they will start laying down some fresh comb for the new hives this year. If that happens then the new hives will be off to jump due to having comb ready to lay brood. Or at least I hope.

    • Phillip
      April 13, 2011

      Hive #2 has no candy cakes or pollen anymore. Just the jar feeder. I may have to change that up if I don’t see them taking down any of the syrup soon (though the A-man says he’s been feeding his for the past few weeks with hive top feeders).

      I don’t think a drop of syrup has been taken from the jar feeders yet, so I’m not worried about the syrup dripping down on them. They’re inside sheltered and insulated supers anyway. I don’t think there’s a huge risk of the syrup contracting and expanding and dripping on the bees.

      I’ll try to fix up the hive top feeders ASAP, but I may not have much spare time for the rest of the month. We’ll see.

  14. Jeff
    April 13, 2011

    I also have a 5-11/16″ shallow super for you if you are interested. I made two. The shallow superis good for making honey comb. One for you and one for me. I also have the 3 medium supers for you too.

    My plan is to work on the covers the weekend. Then I have to get the bottom boards done. If I can get the correct bit for the router I’ll get at that before I come in.

    Also this year I’m going to take some standard super frames and put the 6-5/8″ shallow foundation in so the bees can draw drone comb below. That way I can get a good number of female workers without to many drones per hive. That way down the road there should be suffiecent drones for virgin queens. What do you think?

  15. Phillip
    April 13, 2011

    I also have a 5-11/16″ shallow super for you if you are interested.

    Thanks man. Yeah, I’m interested. Where can we get shallow frames, though?

    I also have the 3 medium supers for you too.

    Really? Wow. Thanks. I can’t wait to see them.

    If I can get the correct bit for the router I’ll get at that before I come in.

    Man, I wish I had your equipment — and the skills to use it. And a basement to build things. Building your own hive parts will save you so much on shipping, it’s insane.

    Also this year I’m going to take some standard super frames and put the 6-5/8″ shallow foundation in so the bees can draw drone comb below. That way I can get a good number of female workers without too many drones per hive. That way down the road there should be sufficient drones for virgin queens. What do you think?

    I think that’s a good idea. I’ve read about that technique. You’d probably get enough drones anyway (nature finds a way), but as far as I know, whenever they bees get a chance to build natural comb, they load up on drone comb first. We hand hundreds of drones late year when we put in our first foundationless frames.

    The tricky part while you only have a few hives is the shallow gene pool. If I end up doing a split this year, I’ll probably order a mated queen ahead of time to save myself the worry.

    In other news, I saw some bees bring in some pollen today. I’ll try to post something later tonight. I’m on lunch break now. I gotta run.

  16. Phillip
    April 25, 2011

    I haven’t had time to repair the hive top feeders, but the bees in both hives are drinking syrup from the inverted jar feeders now. Hive #1, which seems the most active, has only taken down about half a litre. Hive #2 has taken down about a litre.

    I had time to add some pure anise extract to a 1-litre jar feeder in Hive #1 today. The jar used to hold dill pickles and still has some of the dill pickle smell. I poured in a small amount of anise extract into the bottle first (maybe half a teaspoon), then I poured in the syrup. The syrup had strings of cloudiness throughout it once inside the jar. I’m not sure if it was reacting to the old pickling flavour or the anise extract.

    Today is Monday. I won’t have time to check the hives again until Saturday. Hopefully my life will have returned to normal by then. I’m curious to see how much syrup is gone.

  17. Tim
    February 26, 2012

    Hello Phillip. I do not know if you are still using them but the plastic type hive top feeders have pros and cons also. The pros are the amount of liquid it holds before refill. It provides ventilation for warm weather to keep from fermenting. Cons are as you found out, the bees manage to squeeze under screen when getting empty. if you put the plastic edging that is on some of the band saw blades to protect when new over the edges of the wire it keeps the girls in. When filling one that is empty I found that if you cut some hardwood dowels and lay behind screen, as you fill it pushes the bees up as you fill to keep from drowning. In spring when in the peak of comb building they tend to build in the middle opening to hive. Them Bad Girls.

    • Phillip
      February 26, 2012

      I’m not particularly pleased with either of my feeders. The regular top hive feeders leak too often, and the plastic insert feeders are virtulally ignored by the bees. I’m not sure what it is about the plastic feeders, but only a small number of bees ever go into them. Not very useful.

  18. Jeff
    February 26, 2012


    I was ripping plywood today for double mating nucs or swarm traps. I cut enough for 8 double mating nucs and 3 6 – 7 frame swarm traps.

    I’ll hook you up with a couple of swarm traps and one of my top hive feeders. I have two made this weekend and working on a third.

    This is a good link for making swarm traps that accept frames. THis is what your’s will be like.



    • Phillip
      February 27, 2012

      Cool, man. Thanks. I’ll trade a few frames of drones for them.

      One of the people I’m hoping will host a few hives for me this year is a contractor. I think he can get plenty of cheap wood and he knows how to build anything. (It’ll be great if he agrees to let me set up a few hives on his property.) I could show him your feeder and swarm trap designs so he can copy them.

      And maybe next year I’ll set up a band saw in my shed so I can start making my own components (my handheld jigsaw is a bit limited).

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