Types of Beehive Feeders

December 2018 Introduction: This is sort of an uneventful post of me talking about making a giant jar feeder and a brief review of most of the feeders I’ve used over the year. I also wrote a post about how to install a jar feeder, but there’s really not much to it. Jar feeders come in handy when I want to kick-start the bees into foraging mode after a long winter. But they’re not something I think about using often. These days I do opening feeding at certain times of the year (i.e., an open bucket full of syrup with straw a fair distance from the hives), but that’s probably not the best feeding method for beginners. I’ve used frame feeders for starting up nucs. I use hive top feeders too. And recently I began to use rapid feeders that look like this…

A rapid feeder that is placed over the inner cover hole.

…and what some call German-style feeders that look like this:

A German-style feeder, also called an English-style feeder, a Miller feeder and a shallow rapid feeder because, as usual, beekeepers can never get together to agree on a single name for one thing.

Both are considered hive top feeders because they sit on top of the hive, but for me a hive top feeder is this — a heavy wooden box with two 8-litre reservoirs designed as a set-it-and-forget-it feeder that you don’t have check on for a week or more, great for when you can’t say hi to your bees every day:

A hive top feeder (looking at it from above).

Anyway, I picked up the rapid and German-style feeder from Gerard Smith at G&M Family Farm and I like them because they’re convenient for people who actually keep their bees in their backyard and can check on them every day, which is my situation for most of my hives. Both of the feeders sit on top of the inner cover, which is then covered by a super or a ventilation box. I haven’t written or recorded any videos about them yet, but I will sometime in the future. Excellent. So here’s my original post from 2011:

I made an inverted jar feeder from a 4-litre pickle jar today. Oh, the humanity.

So there’s my big jar of hot pickled peppers that was given to me by my aunt last summer. I finally polished off the last of the peppers this week. I cleaned out the jar and poked a few holes in the lid and made the inverted jar feeder below.

Home made jar feeder. (March 20, 2011.)

The jar is upside down and stuffed into a large measuring cup because I was testing to see if it leaked. I don’t want 4 litres of syrup dripping onto the brood nest, cooling and killing all the baby bees.

Circle traced from the inner cover hole. (March 20, 2011.)

I used the hole in the centre of an inner cover to trace a circle on the lid. (Some inner covers have an oval-shaped hole. Some have two holes. It’s a crazy world out there.) Then I took a screw and lightly hammered in tiny holes from the other side of the lid, making sure I didn’t hammer outside the traced circle. (The jar will eventually be installed in the hive directly over the inner cover hole.) But I must have made the holes too big, because I when filled it with water and flipped it, water constantly dripped out of the holes.

Tiny holes punched in the cap for the jar feeder. (March 20, 2011.)

Undeterred, I removed the lid, placed it flat on a wooden cutting board, and hammered the inside of the lid so the little bits of jagged metal along side the holes were flattened down. This reduced the size of the holes, too, but unless the bees have mutant monster sized tongues, it should work fine. So I refilled the jar and flipped it again, and this time it didn’t leak.

I plan to fill the jar with a 1:1 mixture of water and sugar as soon as temperatures stay above freezing and the bees are able to fly around more freely. I don’t want to give them syrup while it’s still so cold that they can’t go outside and poop (the sugar goes through their digestive tracts faster when it’s in liquid form). I also don’t want to put 4 litres of syrup above the brood nest and have the syrup expand and contract during cold temperature extremes. That could force cold syrup out of the jar and drip all over the bees. So I’ll wait.

Today is the first day of spring. Big whoop. That doesn’t mean anything in Newfoundland. We still have three feet of snow in our backyard and the temperatures are still below freezing. And it snowed last night. I might not have a chance to use the jar feeder until April. The jar will be removed as soon as the bees start bringing in their own nectar.