THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON AUG. 27, 2011.
We plan to install these frame feeders as soon as possible. They arrived today from beemaidbeestore.com. The feeders have bee ladders (photo): tubes of plastic mesh the bees crawl down as a way of drinking the syrup without drowning in it. The feeders hold 7 litres of syrup and take up the space of two frames in the brood chamber. (2 litres = 1.85 gallons.)
Our Boardman feeders attract ants, wasps and even big ugly slugs. (The Boardman feeders also encourage robbing at times from other bees.) It’s not a problem for Hive #1 because their numbers are so high. But Hive #2 is weaker and having wasps around probably doesn’t help.
Not having to poke around the hives as much may be another advantage of switching to frame feeders. Hive #1 sucks up about a litre of syrup from the Boardman feeder every three days. If the bees continue at that pace, it could take them up to three weeks to empty 7 litres from the frame feeder, though we’ll likely refill it every two weeks after regular inspections regardless. (UPDATE: The bees drink much faster from the frame feeders.)
UPDATE (Aug. 25/10): I just added one of the feeders to Hive #1. I had to remove two empty frames and one of them was full of bees just starting to build comb, so I placed it in front of the hive. They’ll fly back to the hive after they realized, “Hey, we’re not inside anymore!”
I only wore my veil and gloves. I sprayed the bees once with some sugar water when I banged the feeder down heavy. I only had 6 litres in it, but it still wasn’t easy to handle. I have to buy a large funnel for refilling. There’s no way I’m pulling that thing out every time I need to refill it. I’ll take a peek under the roof this weekend to see how fast they’re drinking the syrup. The colony in Hive #1 is still looking great to me.
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UPDATE (Sept. 06/10): I’ve got a few tips on using these double frame feeders. First, though, bees will drown even with the bee ladders. Here’s how many drowned bees I found after a few weeks:
So here are some tips on how to use these large double frame, 7-litre frame feeders without making too much mess and drowning too many bees:
1) Throw pieces of cork down the bee ladders to prevent drowning.
2) Buy yourself a big funnel for refilling the feeder without having to remove it from the hive.
3) Drill a hole for the funnel on top of the feeder like this:
You can try refilling the feeder by pouring syrup down the bee ladder holes, but I think that’s how I managed to drown so many bees. The bee ladders are packed with bees. It’s probably best to avoid that and just use a separate funnel hole.
4) Don’t forget to duct-tape over the funnel hole after refilling. (Or just lay something flat over the hole.)
5) Install the feeder in an extra deep super by itself on top of the inner cover. The bees will have to crawl further to get to the feeder, but so what? The empty deep super — separated from the regular brood chamber by the inner cover — will provide some extra ventilation for the colony, which is always good, and it will make the refilling procedure much less disruptive for the bees.
NOTE #1: I haven’t tried this yet, so I don’t know if it’ll work. But I plan to try it out in the spring of 2011. I’ll update this post when I do.
NOTE #2: Having open space in a hive, even above the inner cover, might provide an opportunity for wax moths to lay eggs that won’t be noticed, and then they hatch and you’re in trouble. A healthy hive can deal with a few wax moth larvae, but you might not want to chance it. It’s probably safer to keep the frame feeder inside the actual hive. On the other hand, I’ve seen many beekeepers shelter their jar feeders inside supers where there’s plenty of space for wax moths to lay eggs. So perhaps it’s not a concern. (I could be paranoid, which is often the case.)
6) Avoid spilling syrup by not filling the frame feeders to the very top. They hold 7 litres, but I never put in more than 6. And pour the syrup in slowly to give the bees a chance to get out of the way of the rising tide of syrup.
UPDATE (March 11/11): One flaw in the design of this feeder: It’s slightly too wide, just wide enough to jam up the rest of the frames in the box (as seen in this video). It leaves no wiggle room for the remaining 8 frames, which makes it more difficult to remove frames during hive inspections. The feeder also bulges out when it’s full of syrup, so much that the sides will cut into any honey comb adjacent to it. You have to watch out for that.
UPDATE (Aug. 27/11): Here’s a video that shows how to refill the frame feeder.