THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2012.
I have no great love for hive top feeders of any kind. So today I placed an otherwise useless insert feeder a fair distance from the hives, filled it half way with syrup and wood chips and let the bees go to it.
I know there are many arguments against this kind of free for all feeding. Too bad.
UPDATE (May 11/12): Some say the outdoor free-for-all feeder encourages robbing. But I have the feeder far from the hives, so that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Some also argue that the bees fight over the food more when it’s open like this and will become more defensive. I’ve seen a bit of this already. Some bees, when the syrup has dried up, seem to attack each other, fighting over the few drops left in the feeder. That may put some of them in a bad mood. I’ve had a few chase me away when I get too close. I will stick with this method of feeding, nevertheless, because there’s so much less hassle involved. I’m using buckets now. I fill up a bucket. When it gets close to empty, I fill another bucket and bring it out. I bring back the empty bucket in the evening and refill it when the other bucket starts to get empty. Here’s a photo of a little bench on the side of my shed where one of the buckets was sitting a few minutes earlier:
I moved the buckets to the back of the shed, completely out of the way of humans. I’ll use frame feeders for nucs, but I’ll probably stick to this method for spring feedings, which don’t last too long anyway.