Brief April 2019 Introduction: I have no doubt about it now. This is how I use my hive top feeders, with the screen over the middle portion of the feeder, not the reservoirs. I also have screen stapled down in the reservoirs to prevent the bees from getting into them once the feeders runs dry.
Last year I posted a video of a simple modification I make to hive top feeders that prevents bees from drowning in them. I staple screen over the syrup reservoirs and along the bottom edge inside the reservoirs so there is no way the bees can get into the reservoirs and drown.
If the screen above the reservoirs extended over the entrance area of the feeder (the part where the bees come up to access the syrup, whatever part that’s called), then the bees would also be contained inside the hive. I didn’t have enough screen to do all that recently, but I did add some screen to the entrance area of the feeder so it looks like this:And guess what? It works.
I like it because it prevents the bees from flying in my face when I lift the cover off the hive to refill the feeder. Here you can see the bees taking down the syrup, but in no danger of boiling over or flying at me: Screen over the entire thing might be the best set-up, but if I was short on screen and had to choose between the old modification and this new one, I’d pick the new one. Bees can still get into the reservoir from outside when I refill the feeder, but I’m usually so fast at filling it up, the risk is low.
Whichever one I use, I will never ever use a hive top feeder without one of these simple modifications. The standard hive top feeder design is #1 at drowning bees.
OCTOBER 11, 2016: While this modification inadvertently borrows from the design of insert feeders, it doesn’t change my opinion on insert feeders: Throw them in the garbage. If you don’t want your bees to have easy access to the syrup and you want to destroy your nucs before they have a chance to grow, use insert feeders.