PREFACE (OCTOBER 08, 2015): See my Kill-Free Hive Top Feeder video on how to prevent drowning in hive top feeders.
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 one beekeeper online told me, “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.
PHOTOS NOTE (OCTOBER 2015): The photos in this post may not display properly because they were uploaded through Google’s Picasa online photo album service, a service I no longer use because certain updates create more work for me instead of streamlining the process. I will eventually replace the photos with ones hosted on the Mud Songs server. This note will disappear when (or if) that happens.