CHAPTER XIX Edit
WHEN we speak of feeding bees we would not be understood as advocating the feeding of bees with sugar syrup in order to have it stored in the combs and sold as honey, as such a practice is dishonest, and certain to bring the honey-producer into conflict with the pure food laws; but rather that feeding which from time to time is necessary, such as feeding the bees to supply them with sufficient stores to carry them over the winter, or to stimulate brood-rearing in the early spring, or when given to a hive to encourage them to rear queens outside of the season of the natural honey flow; and under these conditions feeding is both legitimate and important.
Sometimes in the early spring, a colony or two will be found to have come out of winter quarters in a much-depleted condition, and in order to encourage it to rear a lot of brood, which it generally will not do until the natural flow comes on, we feed it about a half pint of syrup each day with remarkable results. Some of the most successful beekeepers even advocate feeding all colonies in the spring for brood-rearing, but this is not at all necessary the better plan is to see that each colony goes into winter quarters with abundant stores, more or less of w^hich will be present in the hive with the coming of spring, as such stores are the best for early brood-rearing without resorting to stimulative methods.
Whether the feeding is to be done for early brood-rearing, or for raising queens, or even given in large quantities in the fall for winter stores, the syrup should be the same, and is made by thoroughly mixing equal parts of pure granulated sugar and boiling water. If a large quantity is to be made, it can be mixed up in the extractor, first putting the boiling water in, and pouring the sugar in while the baskets are being whirled about.
It is possible to make the stimulating syrup with a smaller proportion of sugar, but this is no advantage, as the surplus water has to be thrown off by evaporation, and by using equal parts of sugar and water, we save the bees that much extra work. Moreover, experiments have proved to me that they seem to prefer the thicker syrup at all times. In every case the syrup should be given them while it is hot, as they take it up more quickly. Under no conditions should the mixture be boiled on a stove, as there is danger of scorching it, and this will work serious damage to the bees in promoting dysentery and other intestinal diseases, particularly where such syrup is fed for winter stores.
There is no class of men given to invention as much as are beekeepers. In regard to feeders, especially, the number that has appeared from time to time is enormous, and it is the purpose of this chapter to call attention only to a few that have stood the test of time.
A good feeder for stimulative feeding in the spring is the Simplicity feeder. This is nothing more than a long block of wood, preferably basswood, that has been grooved out to hold the feed; it is placed in an empty super on the quilt or cloth that covers the frames, and is of easy access to the bees providing one corner of the cushion or cloth is turned up for the purpose. The principal things in favor of this feeder are that it is cheap and puts the feed where the bees are most likely to go for it overhead; but it has the objection that it necessitates the lifting of the cover from the tops of the frames, with more or less loss of warmth from the brood nest, and this at the time of the year that it is most needed. It might be said, however, that a large number of beekeepers have used and continue to use it.
Another good feeder is the Alexander feeder. This is built somewhat on the plan of the Simplicity, but has the decided advantage of being placed directly under the rear end of the hive with a block covering the end that projects beyond the hive, which is lifted for filling, and, when put back, the little block shuts off all entrance for robber bees. Another thing in favor of the Alexander feeder is that it does not require the opening of the hive for filling, or the lifting up of the cushion or cloth for the bees to get at the syrup, and does away with loss of heat from the brood nest.
The most serious objections to the Alexander feeder are, first, that to use it requires that the hive body shall be pushed back from its entrance, and in stormy weather rain is sure to run down the sides of the hive and dilute the syrup, causing the feeder to overflow on the ground and start up a first-class case of robbing at the most unfavorable season of the year.
Still another feeder is the Boardman, which is nothing more than an ordinary quart jar, filled with syrup, to which has been fitted a perforated metal cap, fitting down securely in a hollowed block of wood. This is shoved in at one side of the hive entrance, and gives the bees of the hive access to the feed, at the same time excluding bees from other colonies that show an inclination to rob. One thing in favor of this feeder is that, the jar being of glass and being in position outside of the hive, the beekeeper can tell at a glance just how rapidly the colony is taking the feed, and will thus know how much to give daily to each individual colony. Experience has proved again and again that an ideal feeder is one which places the feed right over the cluster where it is naturally found by a colony, and which does not permit the escape of heat. There is no feeder on the market that meets this requirement except the Lyon feeder, invented by the author. The following directions show how it should be made.
Take two boards, J inch thick, and cut them so that the two will just cover the brood body of the hive. To secure the two boards, tack some cleats, |- inch thick and as long as required, to the top ends of the boards and along its top sides, so that when all is nailed you have a wooden cover that fits flush with the outside sides of the hive.
Fill with syrup a one-quart or a two-quart Hazel Atlas, or ordinary preserving-jar, and cover it with a perforated metal cap with rubber ring, procured from the bee supply house, and it is ready to be placed in the boarded cover. Place the metal cap in the centre of the board top, and mark around it with a lead pencil ; then with a compass saw, saw a round piece of wood out of the wooden cover. Nail a square piece of wood, not over -J inch thick, to the round piece that was cut out, having the square block projecting an inch beyond the round block to prevent its dropping through the hole upon the frames when the jar is not being used. When you are ready to feed, remove the lid from the hive and place the feeding-board over the brood nest. In the hole place the inverted feeding-jar with metal cap screwed tightly on, and on top of the feeding-board place an empty hive body, and on top of this place the lid of the hive. When the jar needs refilling, it can be lifted out of its hole and taken to the house, the round wooden piece of wood being put back in the hole, to prevent the bees from coming up while the jar is being refilled, and when filled the jar can be set in place again. A little time can be saved by filling another jar and placing it immediately in the hole at the time the empty o^e is taken out, and when the feeding is all over, whether for stimulating brood or for giving winter stores, the wooden block can be placed in the hole, and the feeder board left where it is as a permanent cover to the brood frames, the extra body removed, and the lid of the hive placed upon the feeder board.
These feeder boards have the advantage of being used as a permanent cover underneath the hive lid the year round, and whenever the colony needs feeding it can be changed to a feeding-board in a second by simply removing the round block from its hole, and inserting the jar in its place. This does away with many extra fixtures, and permits feeding in small or large amounts without escape of heat from the colony, or opening of the brood nest either above or below.
I prefer a half-gallon Hazel Atlas jar, as a little feed can be given in them for early broodrearing, and when it comes to heavy feeding for winter, a large quantity can be given each time with the use of but one jar. I have used these feeders for years. They never fail to serve the purpose. They are better than any feeders that I have seen, and are readily made out of old boards, boxes, or other material at hand. The Doolittle Division board feeder is made the size of a brood frame and is placed in the centre or at one side of the brood nest, but as the use of this feeder necessitates the opening of the hive every time it is filled, and when filled many bees are likely to be drowned, I, personally, have never found it so satisfactory as some others.
Whatever feeder is used, the colony fed for early brood-rearing should be given toward evening about half a pint of hot syrup, and if the amount given is more than the bees will take up during the night, the quantity should be accordingly reduced. The feeding should be discontinued as soon as a regular flow begins to come in from natural sources, and the feeders stored away, though in the case of the Lyon feeder only the glass jars are taken away, as the feeding-board remains as a cover for the frames beneath the hive lid. In feeding for winter stores the standard feeder for years was the Miller feeder, a large water-tight box with two compartments so arranged that the bees have access to the feed through a wire screen and are thus in no serious danger of being drowned. This feeder will hold as much as twenty-five pounds of syrup, and is placed in an empty comb honey super on top of the brood frames.
Honesty compels me to say the Lyon feeder is equally as effective, though it may require the refilling of the half-gallon jars a couple of times, to give the required amount for winter stores ; and, unlike others, there is no pouring and splashing of feed outdoors, and no bees can possibly crowd up around the feeder and get drowned in the syrup as hundreds of bees often do in other feeders in spite of careful packing of cloths around them.
It is generally conceded that September is the best time to feed for winter stores, as the bees will take the feed much quicker than later on; but if there is a prolonged flow from the late fall bloom, we often sacrifice a lot of syrup in feeding, as many a light colony will secure from late flowers, even after September, sufficient honey for successful wintering. Bees will seldom take down feed in bitter cold weather when other feeders are used, and in this respect the Lyon feeder excels them all.
Even in freezing weather it is possible to place a Lyon feeder in place and fill the super brood body around it with planer shavings. The feed will keep warm a surprisingly long time, and even through the winter can, from time to time, be replenished, as the packing will keep it from getting too cold. Being right over the brood nest, the bees can get it without leaving the cluster, and will go through the winter depending on it entirely, whereas with other feeders they will starve with chilled feed near them.
Every colony to be wintered in the cellar should have at least fifteen pounds of stores, and if honey to this amount is not present, it should be supplemented to that quantity by syrup.
Where bees are to be wintered outdoors there should be about twenty-five pounds of stores present. One can, by lifting the back end of the hive tell by the weight of it, if it is well supplied with winter stores; and even though a colony is short, there will be more or less honey present, and only a little additional syrup will be necessary.
Feeding is only necessary where we have used the extractor too freely or where the colony has not gathered enough, and there are many seasons when the bees do so well that feeding will not be required. Be careful in feeding not to splash any feed about, or robbers may defeat the very end you have in view in feeding; so, for this reason, it is best to defer feeding until late in the day, and to contract the entrances of the hives being fed. I would not advocate the open outdoor method as tried by some, which consists in pouring a large quantity of feed in an open trough, as it is open to the objections that robbing is likely to be encouraged ; hives that do not need feeding will get a goodly share of it; you may be feeding bees from hives not your own; and, to say the least, it is an expensive and uncertain method.
Better give to each colony individual treatment, and then you will have the satisfaction of knowing that it is getting just the amount it requires, and there will be no danger of feeding all the bees in the neighborhood.