THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

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 Robo says, “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:

P.S., Hive #1, which was the star of the show for most of the summer, shifted into a seriously low gear around mid-September. The activity in and around the hive is pitiful compared to Hive #2 (shown in the video) and has been for the past 6 weeks. All summer long it was the other way around, with Hive #2 always less active and slower to build comb than Hive #1. So maybe Hive #1 shut down earlier simply because all the major comb building was done for the season. I don’t know.

UPDATE (Dec. 14/11): I don’t have a problem with drowning bees in the feeders anymore. That’s not a difficult problem to solve. Basically, you just throw in wood chips or anything that floats. See Leaking Hive Top Feeders and this comment for more information.

9 Responses to “Hive Top Feeder = Drowned Bees”

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  1. Drowned bees are always a sad sight but fortunately, as you said, it won’t be the demise of the hive.

    If you’re interested I can send you some info from the methods used by the instructor & some of the local beekeepers here in the Okanagan for a different feeder design and feeding that apparently helps with drowning. Let me know, I have a sketch and some recipes.

  2. Jeff says:

    Can I get a sketch of that too.

  3. Phillip says:

    If you’re interested I can send you some info from the methods used by the instructor & some of the local beekeepers here in the Okanagan for a different feeder design and feeding that apparently helps with drowning. Let me know, I have a sketch and some recipes.

    No problem. I can use whatever info you have. The more I know, the better.

  4. Sam Smith says:

    You can modify that feeder to loose almost no bees. Feeders with large open pool of syrup like this always kill bees, if you install a screen spaced 1/4″ away from the wall and then screen them so they have to navigate this 1/4″ space they rarely drown. I think the bees enter from the center space? Then I would make a upside down U insert screen spaced with 1/4″ wooden slates to prevent them from getting into the large pools of syrup.

    Looks like you got snow the same time we did :)

  5. Phillip says:

    You can modify that feeder to loose almost no bees.

    I was planning to make similar modifications to these feeders before I installed them, but I was too busy to go shopping around for screen. I’ll do it next spring, or sometime over the winter if I have time.

  6. Tim says:

    Hey there, if you place some straw in the feeders it will prevent a massive loss of bees. the straw allows them to get out if they fall in. but if found the best feeders are these ones
    http://countryfields.ca/images.....feeder.jpg
    they have a cover over the funnel and don’t let heat escape and prevents the bees from drowning

    • Phillip says:

      I’ve since solved the problem of the drowned bees by stapling screen to the top of the reservoirs and floating craft sticks (or Popsicle sticks) in the syrup so the bees don’t drown.

      http://mudsongs.org/first-spri.....e-feeders/

      My big problem with the feeders is they leak. I kind of hate them. I tried using the plastic “insert feeders,” but the bees completely ignore it. I would try out the feeder you linked to if I knew it wouldn’t leak.

      I’m looking for feeders that aren’t made of wood and are therefore not likely to ever leak. Trying to seal up the leaking wooden feeders has been a big pain.

      • Amanda says:

        Phillip–You’ve probably found a feeder by now, but just in case: BetterBee.com sells “BeeMax” hivetop feeders that supposedly don’t leak. They’re a single piece of styrofoam, so there really doesn’t look like there’s any place for it to leak from. (I have two, but I just started out so can’t really attest to their leak-proof-ness.)

  7. Tony Dasher says:

    I built a feeder that works with no drowning. I tried multiple commercial feeders but ended up with an alarming number of dead bees. I think our drought contributed – not a lot of natural forage so they just kept piling on top and ultimately drowned everything from the bottom up. This is a dog waterer that I filled in most of the bowl then covered the filler with a mesh (a plastic mesh that you can buy in the paint section of any hardware store). Use epoxy to glue things in place. I can feed up to 2 1/2 gallons and lose not bees due to drowning. Inexpensive and it works. For a picture:

    http://goo.gl/FgJvWu

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