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I've been a backyard beekeeper for eight years, and over that time I've experimented with different types of hive designs including Horizontal Top Bar, Warré, and the foundationless Langstroth. I've made plenty of mistakes over the years, mostly of the 'killing with kindness' variety, but gradually I've learned to let the bees do what they've been doing pretty well for 130,000,000 years. As much as possible, I try to lightly manage them in order to split strong colonies in spring to increase the number of hives I keep and harvest surplus honey. In my experience the Warré style of top bar hive has had the most success with over-wintering colonies, but I continue to experiment and learn.

While I generally don't feed established colonies, there are three conditions when I do feed:

  1. When installing a new package of bees into a hive in spring
  2. If a colony appears light on stores entering the fall
  3. If a colony seems like it might starve in late winter, before spring bloom begins

I've tried a lot of different methods for feeding over the years, but the best I've found yet is the hive-top feeder detailed in this Instructable.

In my experience, what I like about this design compared to other internal hive feeding methods:

  • No dead bees due to drowning
  • Minimal disruption of the hive atmosphere when refilling
  • No need to for veils or protective gear when refilling
  • The design can be adapted to both Warré and Langstroth style hives

Construction is fairly simple with basic woodworking tools and skills. The dimensions in this Instructable are for my Warré hive, but with some modification it can easily be adapted a Langstroth hive - I use both sizes myself.

Step 1: Lumber, supplies & tools - requirements and options

There's a lot of room for flexibility in this design, but following are the materials I used for my Warré feeder:

Lumber:

  • (2) 1" x 4" x 13 1/2" (long sides of the feeder)
  • (2) 1 x 4" x 11 5/8" (ends of the feeder)
  • (1) 1" x 3" x 12 1/2" (interior wall)
  • (1) 10" x 11 7/8" x 3/8" (plywood floor)

Supplies:

  • Galvanized mesh material (2 pieces trimmed to size) - I use gutter screen
  • 1 1/4" Deck screws
  • Approx. 3 oz. (75 g) Bees wax

Optional supplies:

  • corrugated joint fasteners
  • moisture-resistant wood glue (such as TiteBond II Premium, or similar)

Tools:

  • Table or Radial Arm saw
  • Dado blade (optional - you could create the dadoes using a standard blade and multiple saw kerfs)
  • Hammer
  • Metal snips
  • Cordless drill or screw driver
  • Sauce Pan (or similar size pot) and Pyrex measuring cup (for melting wax)
  • Nylon (or similar inexpensive) Paint brush
  • Staple gun

Sugar Syrup (the reason to build this in the first place)

  • Spring Syrup - 1:1 (1 part white cane sugar to 1 part water, by weight)
  • Fall Syrup - 2:1 (sugar to water)

My Warré hive dimensions vary somewhat due to differing lumber dimensions as I've built them (1" vs. 4/4 rough). I now use only 4/4 for my boxes as it tends to be less expensive than finished (planed) pine and offers more insulation value. The most important thing is to measure your hive boxes to get the overall feeder dimensions that work for you.

<p>I made this for my Langstroth cedar hive, just installed a few days ago with a new package of bees. I started with a shallow super cedar box that was ordered from beethinking.com. Then I dadoed and added the wax and screens. The wax took a few tries because I had a bubble in one corner, and had to fix it by scraping the corner out completely and then sealing it properly. After hiving my bees, I notice some bees are drowning and that they are flying their way into the syrup. I'm thinking to move the outer screen so there is less space to fly and float away from the ladder screen, and they would be forced to land and walk down the screen.</p>
<p>I want to keep bees someday. I currently live in an apartment. I love your idea here. Question: any thought given to using stainless steel mesh instead of galvanized? I don't believe sugar water causes zinc to corrode, but other things outside might. I also don't know what zinc does to bees, but if the zinc salts make it into the honey, it wouldn't be the greatest for human consumption.</p><p>How much thought is given to &quot;food safeness&quot; or &quot;human consumption safeness&quot; when designing bee keeping gadgets? For instance would you avoid building a hive structure or feeder out of lumber treated with chromated copper arsenate (the green pressure treated lumber)?</p>
<p>hi Deepsquid,</p><p>Good question regarding zinc. I hadn't thought of that issue and if I found a stainless mesh I'd probably use it just to be on the safest side, but at this point I'd have to do some research to understand how much of a potential leaching problem there really is in this application.</p><p>Lacking a stainless mesh, If someone wanted to minimize the exposure of the galvanized to the syrup, they could trim the sections of mesh that lie flat on the floor to the bare minimum, and even eliminate the mesh 'ladder' attached to the interior wall. Bees can easily walk on vertical wood surfaces, so getting rid of it might not negatively impact the function very much at all. I'll have to try it!</p><p>I'm sure most if not all beekeepers want the healthiest bees (and bee products). Most of the equipment I see that has to do with honey collection/processing is stainless or food grade plastic. Personally I wouldn't use pressure treated lumber for hives. </p><p>Thanks for the comment and hope you get bees some day!</p>
<p>This is an interesting feeder. I really like how it won't disturb the hive when you check to refill in winter. Perhaps a gentle slope of the plywood would encourage the syrup to pool when low at the bee end if your hives aren't perfectly plumb?</p><p>I've always gone with a 5:3 (sugar to water, a five pound bag of sugar to three pints of water) ratio and put that into a gallon ziplock bag. Place the bag directly on top of the bars with an empty super to provide headspace. Put two small slits in the bag with a sharp knife and the bees do the rest. They suck it out of the bag well enough (even to empty) and the syrup is thick enough to not run out. Granted, I have to put on a veil to pull the old bag and put in a new one. There is also the waste of the plastic bag. I like your idea more. </p>
<p>Hi Jobar007,</p><p>I like your idea of designing a slope into the angle of the floor dado to send the syrup back toward the bees. I admit to taking the easy way out; at times when I noticed a little pool the bees couldn't reach, I slipped a piece of scrap 1/2&quot; plywood under the front end of the hive and left it there as long as I was feeding.</p><p>I've read a lot of Michael Bush's beekeeping info and think his approach to emergency late winter feeding - dry sugar only - is very sound. If it's cold enough for syrup to freeze in the feeder overnight, not much use in putting it in. I have kept a colony that was on the verge of starving in late February (when the weather was still really cold) going with dry sugar.</p><p>I've used ziplock bags for feeding in the past, as you describe, and had mostly good luck; the bees did their thing very well. I did have a problem one spring when they were no longer interested in the remaining syrup (half a bag). When I tried to remove it, it slipped a little and I ended up with a little waterfall down through the top bars, giving the bees a syrup-shower. They didn't hold a grudge (mostly), but I'm glad not to face that issue with this feeder.</p><p>Good luck with your bees and thanks for the comment!</p>

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