Last Updated on June 9, 2023 by Georgie Smith
When the season’s change and cold weather returns, birds fly south, and bears get to hibernate, but what about honeybees? Well, like every species on earth, bees have their unique strategy of coping during the cold season.
Before we get into the topic of the best bee feeder, let’s go on a little journey and learn a little about the fantastic honeybees and their culture during cold seasons.
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Honeybees Have One Job During the Cold Season
One avenue bees use to get ready for winter is to gather all the honey they can to last throughout the season. When the temperatures drop to around 50 degrees, the honeybees head to their hive.
As the weather continues to drop, the bees will gather in a central region of their hive and form their “winter cluster.” The winter cluster resembles a huddle seen at football games-except a bees cluster last all winter long.
Honeybees have one primary job to do during the cold seasons- take care of and pamper the Queen bee. What a lucky bee she is, right? What that means is, they must keep her warm and safe at all times.
To do this, the worker bees gather around the queen in the shape of a cluster. Once the bees have surrounded their queen, they begin to flutter their wings fast and shiver.
The persistent motion and constant use of energy are how the honeybees keep the temperature of the hive warm. For the bees to keep up such rigorous activities, they must have plenty of honey.
And, that is where they gain energy from, is the honey. Probably named the most important task the beekeeper has is to ensure the supply of honey stays full for the bees to continue shivering.
It gets even more fascinating. Even though the queen stays in the center of the cluster, each worker bee rotates from the outside of the group to the inside to keep warm.
The temperature of the group ranges from 46 degrees at the outside to 80 degrees at the inside. The colder it gets outside, the more packed in the group becomes. So, we now know the bees get their energy from honey, right?
Studies show that numbers can go as high as 30 pounds of honey the bees consume during one winter to stay alive and warm while protecting their queen. Simply fascinating, right? more information on Bee’s consumption Here.
Ok. Let’s go onto the next subject. How to feed honeybees in the fall and winter.
Fall Feeding; Should the BeeKeeper or Mother Nature Feed the Brees?
When fall arrives, the bees are beginning to prepare for the cold weather. The following are reasons while you should consider feeding your hive:
- BeeKeeper took more honey than expected while harvesting
- Bad weather or inadequate nectar flow averted the bees from gathering enough stores
- A hive—perhaps a recently set up swarm—maybe it is too late to start, and time ran out for the bees to gather enough stores
- The beekeeper wants to cure Nosema and is using the syrup as a transferor for the antimicrobial treatment.
If you are dealing with any of these conditions and you choose to feed syrup, keep in mind for best results it should be before the daily temperatures drop down too low. If you wait too late, the bees will be more than likely incapable of dehydrating the syrup to a humidity level. A suitable percentage for capping is around 17 percent.
Nectar or syrup if uncapped stands a chance of fermenting in the cell. And, the fermented material is bad for bees.
As you most know, anytime syrup remains in the feeder to long it will eventually mold. When mold forms excessive moisture accumulates within the hive. Once bees stop eating the mixture in the fall, you should remove what is remaining immediately.
Fall syrup is a mixture made up with two parts sugar to one part water (volume or weight, it doesn’t matter). Fall syrup should resemble honey, which is very sweet and thick.
It’s amazing how the life of the honeybee changes from season to season. Ok, let’s see what we can learn about the bee surviving in the winter months, ready?
Winter is Here, What Do We Feed The Honeybees?
As with fall, winter months are the same scenario. The perfect idea is that the honey bees should not need feeding and could survive on their own. However, sometimes life tosses a monkey wrench in natures plan, and things don’t go as planned.
When nature plots against us, this is terrible news for bee colonies. The colonies are facing the cold weather with a lack of stores for their honey. Depending on the local weather conditions and climate will determine how much honey they will need.
Also, the variety of bees and the size of they’re winter cluster comes into play. There are situations where there is ample amount of honey in the hive, yet the bee starves due to not being able to get to it. A beekeeper can tell story after story of how they have had full frames on either side, yet the cluster starves to death.
There is also times when beekeepers can witness to seeing the bees survive on nothing but sugar cakes for several months—and thrive next spring. It is safe to say that if your hive survives the harshest part of winter; you can relax and not fret over the early Spring.
However, the reality is, so many clusters use up their stores throughout the coldest part of the season and starve. That mostly occurs after the climate begins to warm, however, it is before nectar starts to flow. It is essential to be alert about feeding throughout that “in-between” season.
Here are some suggestions for winter feeding of your honey bees. First, let’s start with what not to feed your honeybees during the winter season.
What not to feed:
- Never give the bees honey that you don’t know the source. Many times honey will contain bacteria and diseases.
- Sugar with any additives is a no-no. Sizeable parts of brown sugar are in molasses while cornstarch is an additive in powdered sugar. Fondant contains coloring and additives. Any of these “extras” can be dangerous and can cause infection in the intestines of the honey bees.
- Although many business-related beekeepers feed bees high-fructose corn syrup, this too can be dangerous to your bees. It is vital that you are aware that it usually contains hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)—especially if it has gotten warm or if it is old or has gotten heated. HMF is toxic to bees.
- Do NOT do what many newbies do that don’t listen very well and that is an attempt to feeding bees bag of sugar.
What You Can feed:
- If you don’t have access to honey from your apiary, the next choice would be sugar syrup derived from plain white granular table sugar. The syrup proportion is two parts sugar to one part water. Again, by either volume or weight.
- If the temperatures are going to get below 50°F (10°C), the best option is sugar cakes, granulated sugar, fondant.
How to feed:
- If your weather is warm (above 50°F), you can use liquid feed with an internal feeder, so the bees don’t have to leave the hive to feed. Also, consider adding a mold inhibitor.
- If your weather is cold, you can use a mountain camp rim or a candy board.
When to feed:
- During the fall if your hive feels light you need to begin feeding them liquid sugar syrup. (2 parts sugar to one part water) asap. As the temperature starts getting below 50°F, change to a colder weather method of your choice.
That wraps our section of feeding honeybees and how they adjust to the colder weather. Now, let’s talk about the purpose of this blog, the best bee feeder. You probably already know some information of bee feeders, but it is essential to have a good understanding of how they function and what they offer.
I am going to cover the top 5 top choices in beekeepers available for 2023. Let’s hope you gain plenty of insight. You can learn about Beehive starter kits here.
Top 4 Best Bee Feeders in the Market:
|HARVEST LANE HONEY FEEDBB-102 Entrance Bee Feeder
|– 5 x 5 x 0.5 inches
– Easy to use
|HARVEST LANE HONEY FEEDBBG-102 Entrance Bee Feeder/Jar
|– 5 x 5 x 10 inches
– Great value
– Easy to use
|Mann Lake Entrance Feeder
|– 5.5 x 3.2 x 1.2 inches
– Easy to clean
– Long life
|Little Giant Farm & Ag ENTFDR Entrance Feeder
|– 4 x 6 x 7.2 inches
– Excellent product
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A glass jar is necessary for this feeder. However, it is not included and must be purchased separately. You would place the feeder in the entrance of the colony. You would use sugar water to feed. The feeder is not for winter use. The bottom’s design is a heavy plastic.
Some users suggest the bowl’s usage could also be for water. The Harvest Lane Feed is easy to use and highly durable. Rated a 4.5 star is why this product ranks on our list of the top five bee feeders.
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The feeder base is the same feeder mentioned above except this model comes with the glass needed to hold the food. The Boardman Feeder is perfect for Top Bar, Langstroth, or any non-traditional colonies. Both products, number one and two are for outside use of refueling the hive. You can use a standard mason jar for feeding.
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This product is for simplicity and security. The two separate compartments have floats that will prevent the bees from drowning. All you have to do is put the feeder on top of the colony; then fill it with syrup, cover it with the provided cover, then replace the top. Ta-Dah..You are ready, and your bees are happy. The capacity of the feeder is over two gallons. Bees will always be able to reach the syrup thanks to the center access.
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The Mann Lake Entrance model makes life easier for you by making this feeder with the ability for you to use your own jar for feeding. A simple mason jar will do the trick. The feeding takes place at the front entrance of the colony, making it easy for you and the bees.
The purpose of the design is to make it have a longer life and the consumer to have more extended use of the product. However, it is recommended by the manufacturer not to use this product during the winter season.
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This plastic feeder is easy to use and fits directly into in the front of the hive. Its exclusive Design is made to fit into the entrance reducer thanks to the large opening at the entrance making it easy access to the bees. This feeder model provides ample space for the bees to roam freely as they get their nourishment from the simple syrup when their food source from mother nature is scarce.
The base is high-impact plastic, and the glass jar is transparent which allows you to see what the food levels are at all times without disturbing the hive. Holds approx. 1 quart.
And, there are the top five leaders of the beekeeper’s feeders. We hope we have helped with your choice of what you need for your beehives. Now that we have talked about the different brands of the feeder let’s talk about which seems to be the best type to use.
It’s More Than Just a Feeder
As we have discussed there are several types of feeders available on the market. First, we have to understand that none are flawless. Not one of them is perfect, and each has their sets of drawbacks, and you can bet the beekeepers have their own opinion on the matter.
Each product has its own set of goods as well. Let’s go over each type one at a time.
Open Air Feeders:
It is not wise for beekeepers to use the open-constructed feeder. These are prone to attracting all sorts of wildlife other than a bee. These open containers are famous for attracting birds, raccoons, possums, bears, and skunks—whatever is around. Bees that use an open feeder often share parasites and diseases with each other. Also, bees at an open feeder have a tendency to fight, which will make weak hives even weaker.
Entrance feeders have two essential parts. The feeding tray inserts into the entrance of the hive, and an upside-down syrup container fits into the remainder of the outside of the colony. That makes it always simple to see how much is left while making it simple to refill.
On the other hand, they hold small amounts and don’t perform well in cold weather. That is due to the liquid possibly freezing, or the honeybees may not have a great way to enter. Some beekeepers point out that they don’t like this type of feeder. Due to its ability to entice robbing because of the location of the food would make it hard to defend.
Division board feeders
These feeders are generally the size of a brood (the larvae) frame. They are typically made of plastic and are inserted into the colony instead of one of the frames. These are intelligent designs that sadly don’t work very well. They are good because they are entirely inside the hive where less robbing is likely to happen. The objects are relatively simple to fill, and they hold a surprising amount. However, they can create substantial problems.
These designs’ purpose is so bees can crawl out quickly and not drown. But, complaints are that the bees drown anyway. Even the ones with ladders, rough sides, or floats seem to drown lots of bees. Also, if allowed, and the feeders go empty, the honeybees will build a comb inside, or the bees will propolis the floats to the sides or bottom of the container.
The black plastic ones expand when you fill them, and that makes it tough to transport other frames, and the glued-together yellow ones consistently leak.
Internal hive-top feeders:
These feeders fit right on top of each brood underneath the cover. They can store a lot of syrup and are extremely easy to fill. Each model comes with crafty methods to save the bees from drowning; Some bees will end up dying anyway.
Also, if you need to move it off the hive while being full, it will be heavy, and the syrup may slosh around. Another issue is that if you don’t use some type of mold inhibitor (such as essential oil), you can get a type of paste that is nasty.
External hive-top feeders
These containers that are turned upside down over the entrance hole in the inside cover. There will be times when they sit on top of the hive while being enclosed in an empty area. The covering is a good idea, especially if winds or animals can dislodge the container.
The containers are often huge, so they hold a bunch of syrup. And the syrup usually stays good without molding due to it not being exposed to the air. The downside is that the containers are generally very heavy. For example; A one-gallon glass jar of 2:1 syrup, can be dangerously slippery, heavy, and awkward to carry. The pail feeder for bees is tremendously easier to use.
A baggie bee feeder is just a spacer rim that assists you with filling the bag with syrup and having a place to lay the bag. Once the bag is resting in place, you cut it open, and the bees drink the liquid via the open slit. Often these are entirely sucked dry with no (I mean zero) dead bees. Sometimes 3 or 4 crawls in under the plastic, and they usually die but, overall, the bees do very well with these.
Heat from the cluster prevents the syrup from freezing, even in moderately cold weather. People like the size of the rims because they offer a place to put grease patties, pollen patties, and even mite treatments along with the syrup.
You can also use the area to add sugar cakes during the winter versus making candy boards. There are downsides, too. Once a bag is cut open it is no way possible to move. And the bag is a one-time-use throwaway—which can be expensive.
Fun Facts About Bees
Bees are fantastic insect that adds so much to our daily lives and has been doing so for millions of years. Let’s take a look at these fascinating facts all about the honey bee and their commitment to themselves, each other, their hive, and mostly, their queen.
- To start with, there are only three types of bees in a colony. The drone, the workers, and the queen.
- It is the responsibility of just one bee to lay all the eggs for her colony to thrive and that is the queen. She “talks” to her colony with her own unique scent called pheromones. This one bee, the queen will produce and lay up to 1500 eggs each day. (Poor thing, huh?)
- The workers in the hive are all female, and they do all the labor into the hive. They are kind of what you might call the “house bee.” She does all the cleaning, feeding the baby bees, feeds and attending to the queen, packs nectar and pollen into the cells, caps the cells, repairing and building honeycombs, and fanning the hive to keep it cool while protecting the colony. Wow, right? What a job description. Workers also have another grueling job. They gather pollen and nectar from flowers and collect water and a sticky substance called propolis.
- Okay, how many of you knew this? Bees have two stomachs? So it appears they need one stomach for eating and a second “special” stomach for hanging on to stuff. They keep the nectar from the flowers and water so they can bring it back to their hive.
- The male bees in the hive have a pretty bad to the bone name; they are called drones. Their job in the colony is to hunt down a queen bee to accomplish one thing—mate with a queen! That’s it. Male bees go out and meet in particular drone meeting areas where they try to meet a queen. Male drone bees don’t have a stinger. What a job he has, right?
- If the worker bee uses her stinger, she will die.
- If you want to learn about the amazing bee and their way of life, you should read these best beekeeping books.
There you have it. A layout to everything you would need to know about beekeeper feeders and bees. There is no doubt that earth needs honeybees more than they need humans. Without the fantastic bee, so many things humans things take for granted happens because of honeybees.
Whether you are a novice beekeeper or a seasoned professional, or just someone that finds learning about bees interesting, I hope you learned a lot from our blog. Do you have more information on beekeeping feeders or more to add to this article, please leave us a message.
You can learn more about the amazing life of bees and beekeeping at morninghomestead.com/beekeeping.