Making sure that your bees have easy access to the right food is critical to how your hive will settle in and enjoy their new home. New bees will eat a 1:1 sugar and water mixture. The easiest way to mix the sugar and water is to boil the water and then mix in the equal amount of sugar, and stir until completely absorbed. You can make a large batch and store what you don’t use right away for later use – it will keep for quite awhile in cool, dry conditions.
A mason jar makes an excellent feeder and the quart size fits perfectly into a top bar hive. What you will do is puncture 3-4 small holes in the lid of the jar with a very small nail or drill (about 1/16″ is big enough). When the jar is filled with sugar water, turn it upside down and you will see that the suction prevents the syrup from dripping out. The bees will drink the syrup through the holes until they have enough honey to feed themselves.
The bee feeder is placed in the hive in a section separated from the main part. With a top bar hive, you should have about ten top bars in the middle ready for bees when they first arrive. Your follower boards go on either side to block the ten starting top bars off. One of your follower boards should have a 3/4″ to 1″ hole in it, through which the bees can get into the other part of the hive. This is the area in which you place the bee feeder. The feeder should be about 1″ off the floor of the hive, propped up so that the bees can get under it to drink.
Make sure to check on your bees’ food supply regularly – a depletion of food will lead them to look for a better place to live. You will want to continue feeding your bees until they have about 10 combs of honey in their hive to feed themselves. Some feed longer, and some beekeepers feed shorter, but this seems to be the most consistent rule of thumb.
This method of feeding is very easy and doesn’t involve much disruption of the hive – since the feeder is in a separate section from the colony, they hardly notice when you change it out. Make sure that your bees have plenty of food to start and they will soon be happily building their own honeycombs in your hive.
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