Home / DIY Beekeeping Guides / How to Add Feeders to Your Bee Hive

How to Add Feeders to Your Bee Hive

The day you decided to be a beekeeper marks the beginning of responsibility. You are legally and morally required to take care of the bees as you would any member of your household. The bee feeder is an important part of bee colony management. You can never afford to stay without one. Bee hive feeders are used for supplying the bees with sugar syrup when sources of nectar are minimal of non-existent. They are also used for providing medicine to the bees. These are medications that can be dissolved in sugar syrup and offered to the bees.

How to Make a Pail, Baggie, and a Frame Bee Feeder

You have two options if you need to setup a bee feeder – DIY or just buy one. You’ll save a bit when you decide to do it yourself. Beside cost savings, you also get a sense of fulfillment when you setup one. You can as well setup one for your neighbours and show off your skill. If you’d rather just buy one, check out our article on the best bee feeders available today.

1. DIY: Make a Pail Bee Feeder

The pail feeder can be compared to a jar feeder. It is however bigger and therefore require minimal refills. However, one has to exercise caution when handling this type of feeder. It is heavier and that means it will create a lot waste if it spilled. They are the easiest to maintain and at times leads to bee drowning even with precaution.

To make your own pail bee feeder, follow these steps:

  • Take a 5-gallon bucket or pail and put it within a convenient place from the hive. It should be easily accessible for you and the bees.
  • Fill the pail with food or syrup of about 1 gallon and install a float through which the bees can consume the syrup.
  • To minimize the number of bees that drown on the syrup, prepare a circular plastic float that fits the pail tightly.
  • Drill a few holes on the plastic so that the bees can sip the syrup through the holes.

Alternatively, you can use an inverted jar to feed the bees. This is similar to the pail bee feeder but it is easier to design. All you need to do is drill holes on the lid of a jar and turn it upside down for the bees to suck the syrup. The jar allows some tiny amounts of food to come out and hence prevents wastage. The lid should be punched from the top so that the sharp edges of the holes remain inside the jar. Once this is done, you can suspend the jar inside the hive or simply hand it outside the box.

In summary:

  1. To refill the pail feeder you must open the hive and that means you are vulnerable to stings.
  2. You need to smoke and disrupt the bee colony before refilling.
  3. The 1 gallon capacity needs to be refilled once or twice every week.
  4. Allows a few bees at a time to feed.


2. DIY: Make a Baggie Bee Feeder

This is one of the best DIY projects for your bee colony. It simply entails filling a plastic baggie with syrup to ¾ then zipping it up before placing it on the top hive bars. The bag is laid flat and directly on the bars. Those who would like to attract wild bees to their yard using this method should place the feeder outside. 2 or 3 slits are then cut on the bag with each about 4 inches in length. The slits should be away from the baggie edges and should be parallel to the hive entrance.

The baggie feeder should be positioned in such a way that an empty super is around it. This will make it impossible for other insects to find it. It also gives enough room for the bees to get access to the syrup.

In summary:

  1. The baggie bee feeder is the most cost effective. The bags are cheap but not permanent. They need to be replaced every time.
  2. It makes it impossible for robbers to steal the syrup.
  3. Allows the bees to get an easy access to the food since the feed lies directly on top of the bees.
  4. It is almost impossible for the bees to drown when fed using baggie feeding.


3. DIY: Make a Frame Bee Feeder

The frame bee feeder, in simple terms refers to a narrow vessel that looks like a standard frame. It is normally placed on the upper deep-hive body and takes the place of one of the wall frames. It has a low capacity and is filled with syrup to which the bees get direct access. This type of feeding is quite impractical. It has to be refilled daily and you are forced to forgo one frame when the frame is installed. You also disturb the bees when you want to refill the feeder. This will also expose you to stings. Furthermore, bees often drown in this type of feeder.

The frame bee feeder is also referred to as the division-board feeder. To DIY this, follow these steps:

  • Check out the width of the frame feeder and take out the number of frames that will create sufficient space for the feeder.
  • Place the frames removed aside.
  • Place your frame feeder in the empty space created.
  • Take a container and mix the syrup.
  • Pour the syrup into the frame bee feeder. Close the hive and take away the frames removed.

In summary:

  1. The frame feeder is easy to install and maintain.
  2. Since they take up frame space, you need to calculate the space required before you set it up.
  3. You need to remove it for cleaning and this disrupts the bee colony. You also have to open up the hive when you want to refill the feeder.
  4. This type of feeder makes it impossible for robbers to steal the syrup.
  5. The division-board feeder are cheaper when compared to other types of feeders.
  6. Drowning is common with this type of feeder. More sophisticated designs that come with floats and ladders are available. These minimize drowning though it can still occur.
  7. Since these feeders are made of plastic, one has to be careful when inspecting them so as to avoid damaging them.
  8. The frame feeders have a capacity of between 1 to 2.5 gallons and therefore they can provide sufficient syrup to carry through a number of days. They come in handy whenever a lot of syrup is required within a short period of time.


A Final Word

The bee feeder is essential for sustenance during the hard times. The bees are capable of catering for themselves through all seasons but the feeder acts as a supplement when help is required. Such times include: when a new colony has just been introduced to an area and just before the onset of winter when resources are limited. You should choose a bee feeder that will meet your needs. Each bee feeder has its pros and cons. Check them out before you choose one.

Next topic: Choosing your Beekeeping Supplies >