Open feeding can be devastating to your hive.
Last week I got a message from a new beekeeper who had gotten a package of bees a month ago and wanted to help them build comb by feeding them. The nectar flow in the desert in June is pretty slim, so it was the right thing to do. The problem was that there were at least 4 feral (Africanized) hives nearby and she placed the open feeder within feet of her very weak hive.
Shortly after putting the feeder out she noticed a lot of activity around it and noted that the bees didn’t look like her pale Cordovans. Then she noticed that activity surrounding her hive, and by the time she looked inside, every bee was dead. Those robbing bees wreaked total devastation on that hive, and she was obviously upset.
When the beekeeper messaged me she was now concerned about all the brood that was left behind. Since it had only been a day, and a warm one at that, I thought that we could at least save the brood by placing it in another hive. I drove out to her place and took the entire hive with me, dead bees and all. I called another beekeeper who had a growing, but still small swarm and asked if we could give him the brood frames. We just switched out some of his empty frames and traded them out for the brood. I think it was a great choice for everyone.
I told the devastated beekeeper, who had been waiting and preparing for bees for three years, that I would give her the bees from my next relocation. These bees will be a naturally strong colony that will only need to be requeened. I think they will have a much better chance in her location.
And last, but not least, she will never open feed her bees next to the hive again.
And neither will I.
It just so happened that I am helping to care for two newer packages of bees that are in need of supplemental feeding to get their numbers up for the summer months. I had tried open feeding, but have since decided to feed inside the hive.
I chose a simple jar feeder.
This one gallon jar, which is available at Walmart, has a metal lid that can be pierced with a small picture hanging nail several times. Simply fill the jar with your syrup (I fill the jar with sugar and then add hot water till its full) and screw the lid on. Place it on top of the inner cover with shims to hold it up so bees can draw out the syrup. Then place a deep box over that and then the lid. Only the bees in that hive will be able to access the feeder.
I check my bees weekly, so I will know how it is doing and whether Or not I need to refill. My goal here is to encourage comb building so they can build their numbers. Once it is up to par or there is a good nectar flow, I will remove the feeder.