Beekeeping: Feeding Your Bees With A Frame Feeder

by Texas Homesteader ~
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Bees harvest their own food. But sometimes during the dearth of summer when not much is blooming, a beekeeper can help keep the bees fed by using a frame feeder filled with a syrup made of sugar & water.

 There are many ways to feed the bees. And there are many feeding devices you can buy & use to accomplish that. But here’s what we do:

There are different ways to feed your bees sugar water when they need a little help. We like using a frame feeder best. #TexasHomesteader

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All spring we’ve been busy as a bee! (Grooooaaaan – bad pun, y’all!)

Our hives have increased this year thanks to us performing splits and capturing swarms. All our bees are busy, busy, busy these days!

During the spring when everything was abloom they had all they could harvest. Those girls were coming & going from the hives with pollen pockets full!

But now that the heat of our NE Texas summer is starting to set in the blooms are not quite as prolific.

Oh there are still a few wildflowers blooming, and the bees are all having a hayday with the blooms in my garden alright. But with the fading blooms and the fact that we’re trying to boost some of those smaller swarm hives, RancherMan & I decided perhaps we need to give them a little help. 

As I’ve said before, every beekeeper does things differently. Just because someone else does things one way doesn’t mean that will be what’s best for your own apiary.

Entrance Feeder Method

RancherMan & I first tried the canning-jar entrance feeders and there are many benefits to them. 

First, they’re super easy to fill without disturbing the hive. And secondly, it’s very easy to see how much feed remains so you know when to refill. It’s certainly the lower-disturbance way to get those girls fed.

But when we used the *entrance feeder method we experienced problems with ants as well as the other hives robbing.

Plus RancherMan thought those feeders just didn’t hold enough syrup.  Sometimes the bees would go through a jar in a day! So we don’t use them at the hive entrances anymore.

Frame Feeder Method

Enter the *frame feeder. These small frame feeder boxes take the space of one of the frames in a deep box.

The frame feeders we have include a bee ladder. This allows the bees to get down into the feeder without drowning. The ladder gives them a way to easily & safely climb back out.

Feeding honeybees sugar water. There are different ways to feed your bees sugar water when they need a little help. We like using a frame feeder best. #TexasHomesteader

Of course using this method has positives & negatives as well.

First off, you’re losing a frame that the bees will no longer be able to build on. So that’s obviously a drawback.

Another drawback is that you have to get into the hive to insert and to fill it. That disturbes the hive more than just an entrance feeder jar would. 

Plus, you can’t monitor how much syrup remains in the feeder the way you can with an entrance jar feeder. So you have to crack into the hive just to find out if they need more.

But even with those drawbacks, the frame feeder we use holds 3 quarts of syrup, which is more than the entrance jar feeders hold. And robbing is all but eliminated in our hives.

Plus, since we began using the frame feeder we’ve had no problems with ants either. For us, the positives outweigh the negatives. So the frame feeder is the method RancherMan likes to use to keep our honeybees fed during summer dearth.

Tip For Easily Filling Frame Feeder

When it’s time to feed the bees, RancherMan will place the frame feeder in the top hive box.  When he first installs the frame feeders he’ll take them out to the beehives already filled with syrup. The bees will go through this much feed in about 4 days.

When it’s time to refill the feeder he’s come up with this shortcut. He mixes the sugar and water at a 1-to-1 ratio and stirs until it’s completely dissolved.

There are different ways to feed your bees sugar water when they need a little help. We like using a frame feeder best. #TexasHomesteader

Then he pours it into a plastic sun-tea pitcher we picked up for almost nothing at a thrift store.  (Have I mentioned lately how much I love thrift stores??  Our purchase was inexpensive & our dollars go to a good cause. win/win!)

He’ll take the filled jar to the hives and remove the telescoping hive cover. Then he’ll slowly slide the inner cover back just enough to expose the frame feeder.

Then he can just press the nozzle and the sugar water flows into the feeder without spilling anything into the hive! Sometimes he takes a plastic funnel out there with him, but sometimes not.

Feeding the honeybees sugar water. There are different ways to feed your bees sugar water when they need a little help. We like using a frame feeder best. #TexasHomesteader

Then he slowly replaces the inner cover and puts the top back on the hive, straps everything down and he’s done! The disturbance to the hive is significantly reduced this way.

When he gets back inside the house, RancherMan typically makes notes in his beekeeper’s journal so he’ll know when it’s time to check the feeder again. This frame-feeder method has worked best for us.

~TxH~

BEEKEEPING SERIES:

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2 thoughts on “Beekeeping: Feeding Your Bees With A Frame Feeder

  1. Brenda Seader

    Smart! I like the ice tea jug idea. I use recycled plastic iced tea jugs from our recy center. I’ve had a lot of success with the “4 Pint Rapid Feeders” from eBay. Fit over hole in inner cover if you use one, great seal against insects, and you don’t get into the hive at all. Easy to move if you need to get into hive. I still use jars like yours on my nucs, tho. Sometimes you just can’t improve on the old tricks, just find new ways to use them! Thank you for a read I look forward to, every day!

    Reply
    1. Texas Homesteader Post author

      I absolutely love when you say “”Sometimes you just can’t improve on the old tricks, just find new ways to use them!” Yes! We’ve used those jars inside a frameless honey super placed on top of the hive when they needed more. That worked out well, we didn’t have to get into the hive itself to fill, just lift the top & replace with full ones. ~TxH~

      Reply

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