As a beekeeper, it is sometimes necessary to feed your bees when resources become limited or when environmental conditions prevent foraging. Front feeders offer an efficient and safe method of doing this without opening up the hive and inviting in unwanted bees, though this could increase robber bee populations and other pests.
An entrance feeder consists of a jar filled with syrup that sits outside the hive and allows users to easily track resource levels while providing easy monitoring capabilities, but can become vulnerable in extreme temperatures due to freezing temperatures causing it to potentially burst and be broken by freezing conditions.
Mason Jar Feeder
Mason jar feeders are straightforward for beekeepers to understand and use, enabling them to hang the feeder directly over the entrance or within an empty super. Unlike internal top feeders, which must be installed first before being accessible for replacement without disrupting colony life.
Front feeders are popular with beekeepers because they’re affordable, easy to maintain, and require no special equipment – making them incredibly popular among bees themselves! Furthermore, the feeder can be filled by using either a quart- or gallon-sized Zip-lock(tm) style freezer bag; simply cut a 3″ slit in the center of a quart-size bag while cutting longer slits for gallon sizes as you fill.
Beekeepers then fill a bag with sugar water and place it over the entrance to their hives, where bees will consume and convert it to honey. Because this type of feeder does not expose itself to air, mold does not form. These feeders can be used with Warre, Langstroth or Top Bar hives for maximum durability.
Internal Hive Top Feeder
While mason jar feeders provide many benefits, hanging them at the entrance may not always be best practice. Doing so may cause robber bees to drown in sugar water and attract animals or insects that could harm or threaten the hive, and they may make refilling too complicated or time consuming when syrup levels run low.
An internal hive top feeder, commonly known as a boardman feeder, may be the solution. Sitting above an empty inner cover in your hive and easily refillable via its convenient tube system, these internal feeders make life much simpler when filling up honeybee hives with nectar or pollen. They come in wood or plastic materials and come with capacities suitable to your beehive size.
Hives tend to be less likely to encourage robbing and are easier to clean than jars, yet may still require attention during winter due to potential freezing inside of hive interior and intruders such as mice or ants.
Hive Top Feeder with Floats
The hive top feeder sits atop an inner cover to protect it from sun, rain and robber bees. It can be filled with either sugar syrup or dry sugar for filling purposes.
This wooden hive top feeder contains two compartments that each hold one gallon of syrup, designed to sit atop of a hive box. You can customize it further with pine slatted floats to slow the flow and prevent bees from drowning. Furthermore, there’s also an optional screen covering its center bee slot to allow bees access through small openings to the screen holes and sip syrup from it directly through.
This hive top feeder can be used to feed new colonies that are being established after package bee installation or to feed established colonies during winter. Easy to refill, it can also be checked without opening the hive and can be filled with either sugar syrup or pollen replacement solution; plus it comes in both 8 and 10-frame sizes!
Toughtimbers Hive Top Feeder
This hive top feeder for bees features a tray that allows you to monitor sugar levels without opening the hive. Designed to fit a quart glass jar and fitted with caps to secure it in place, this feeder provides one of the easiest ways to feed bees while preventing accidental entrance feeding, which often results in unwanted robbing incidents.
External hive top feeders are containers that are inverted over an entrance hole in the inner cover, often enclosed within an empty super. Unlike internal feeders, external ones must be covered to protect them from animals or high winds dislodging it, while they also hold more syrup but may fall off on rainy days or slip off due to being heavy and more secure on plastic pails which are much lighter yet provide greater security on hives and allow you to swap out empty jars easily so they can be filled more quickly.