Because I am using a top entrance on my hive and don’t have any way to attach a boardman feeder to the hive, the question becomes how do you feed this hive?
I could use a bucket with floats inside the hive. If I put it in a top box by itself with no frames, I am sure it would trigger massive robbing. If I put a bucket in the bottom, I would have to move all the frames over and into new boxes and the bees would probably build comb all over the place making a mess. It would also be hard to replenish. I don’t like the idea of a bucket.
I looked on Michael Bush’s site on the feeding page, http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm, and found a feeder that was interesting called a Jay Smith Bottom Board Feeder. It had a lot of qualities I liked, but some drawbacks too. I decided to think about my requirements.
- A bottom board feeder was good for avoiding robbing.
- I wanted high capacity for the feeder so I didn’t have to fill it up all the time.
- I didn’t want to waterproof it, so I wanted to be able to use an aluminum foil pan in the feeder.
- I didn’t want a big open space for bees to drown in and build wild comb in.
- I didn’t want the bees to drown.
- I wanted to be able to fill the feeder from outside the hive.
- I wanted to protect the feeder from robbing.
- I didn’t want debris from the hive going into the feeder.
- It should be quick and easy to build with materials on hand.
The Jay Smith feeder met some of these requirements, but not all, so I started designing the Wilcox Bottom Feeder, no pun intended, from the Jay Smith feeder as a starting point.
Using an aluminum pan was pretty easy. I just made the walls of the feeder taller, using 2x4s which I have a lot of laying around. I made the box about 24 inches long, so it is bigger than the hive. Like the Jay Smith feeder, the part that sticks out can be used to fill the feeder in the front or back of the hive as desired. I decided to build a solid plywood top for the feeder which will form the bottom board of the hive. The plywood top covers the entire feeder, and has a hole cut in the outside portion where the feeder can be filled. I reduced the size of the opening to reduce the amount of rain and other stuff that might get it. Having a plywood bottom meant that there had to bee a hole, and that would still leave a way for debris to drop into the feeder on the inside, so I decided to create a three layer access for the bees to the feeder. See the pictures below for more details. In order to keep the bees from building comb in the feeder and to reduce the number of drowned bees, I decided to put a 2 inch plastic pipe below the access hole, restricting the bees to this 2 inch tube. Small kerfs were cut on the bottom of the pipe section to allow the syrup to flow into the pipe. A piece of expanded metal mesh as placed in the hole in the bottom of the hive and down to the bottom of the pipe to provide excellent walking surfaces in the pipe. Rather than floats to protect the bees from drowning, I decided to put a stack of rocks in the pipe to fill most of it up while still allowing the bees to get to the syrup. On top of the cover are 1×2 frames to provide bee space for the bottom board and a base for the hive boxes. That’s it. Pretty simple. Here are some pictures of the completed feeder:
This is the feeder box. 3/4 Plywood base with 2×4 sides. Pretty simple. The inside dimensions are the same width as my hives, and about 4 inches longer than my hives.
Here is another picture of the box from another angle, proving it is pretty simple.
Talk about simple! Place the pan in the box. Now it is water proof.
Here is the top of the feeder, which is also the bottom board for the hive. There is still one piece missing so the hole in the bottom can be seen where the bees access the syrup in the feeder.
The filler hole, which is outside the hive. The feeder can be filled without opening the hive.
The underside of the feeder top, showing the ceder fence board with a hole in it, the screen to give the bees something to walk down easily into the syrup is simply rolled up and stuck in the hole in the fence board. A screen also covers the filler hole and is stapled on the under side as can be seen. This screen prevents robbing by other bees and critters, when the feeder is used with syrup. If the feeder is used with dry sugar during winter, the screen keeps the bees on the inside too.
A closeup of the screen insert.
Here the pipe is added. With the screen, the pipe might be unnecessary, but I included it anyway. Notches are cut into the bottom of the pipe so the syrup can get into the pipe. The notches rest on the bottom of the pan once the top is turned over into the pan. The pipe is not connected to anything. It just rests against the bottom of the pan and is held in place by the screen. I did it this way so I can easily remove the pipe and screen if I want and use the feeder to give the bees dry sugar in winter.
A closeup of the notches in the pipe.
The pipe is now sitting in the pan, the way it will when the feeder is fully assembled. When I set up the feeder, I threw some large gravel into the pipe. The rocks left enough room for the bees to go all the way to the bottom, but filled up most of the pipe so no floats are necessary. There is always a rock or the screen close by for the bees to grab onto.
Here the feeder is fully assembled. The final piece has been added. It is a 1/4 inch plywood piece to cover the hole in the feeder top. This prevents, as much as possible, hive debris getting into the feeder.
This shows a hive being assembled. A hive box is placed on the feeder, using the feeder top as a bottom board. The hive has a top entrance, so there is no opening at the bottom.
This is the complete setup with the filler cover added. The filler cover is just a 2×4 in this case. It could be anything that will cover the filler hole and prevent rain and other things from entering the hive through the filler hole.