I plan to install these frame feeders as soon as possible. They arrived today from BeeMaid. The feeders have bee ladders: 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. (7 litres = 1.85 US gallons.)
My 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 the bees in Hive #1 because their numbers are so high, they can take care of themselves. 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. I should have had these things in from the start.)
August 25th, 2010: 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.
September 6th, 2010: 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 (not much):
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 or wood chips 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 plug over the funnel hole after refilling. (Or just lay something flat over the hole.)
5) Avoid spilling syrup by not filling the frame feeders to the very top. They hold 7 litres, but I wouldn’t 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.
March 11th, 2011: 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.
August 27th, 2011: Here’s a video that shows how to refill the frame feeder.
November 2018 Postscript: I like these frame feeders, but other feeders that rest on the inner cover above the brood nest work too, and may be more convenient for some people. I still vote for frame feeders for new beekeepers because it gives you an excuse to open up the hives and at least take a peek inside every few days. I know some beekeepers say it’s best to leave the bees alone as much as you can, which is generally true, but new beekeepers who hardly look inside their hives sometimes seem to take the leave-the-bees-alone approach too far, to the point where it takes them forever to learn about what’s going on inside the hive — because they never look inside the hive. During my first two years of beekeeping, I doubt there was a week where I didn’t look inside the hives for some legitimate or made-up reason. I learned more from sticking my face in my hives as much as possible during the first two years than I did from any book or beekeeping mentor. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me.