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Easiest feeding during dearth

Hello all you crazy, wonderful beeks!
I am more of a lurker/ learner here but thought some of the newer bee keepers might find this useful. I have only been at this calling for 3 years but in that time I have experimented with all types of feeders and this is hands down my fave when I reached 5+ hives. I can’t stress enough I have not had ANY issues with communal feeding at all; i.e. no robbing, no pests (like wasps), no drowning (the most I ever found were 4 bees in the litter) and no disturbing the hive. Best of all --not encouraging & feeding hive beetles in the hive. (I found with the top feeder there were entirely too many drowned bees and with frame feeders the hive beetle population went nuts). So, thought it was best to mimic nature with these really big “flowers” and make the bees gather “nectar” like they normally would. Placement is at least 100 yards away. I have found that 5 gal. of syrup per hive, served over the course of our local dearth is plenty sufficient to see them to the fall flow.

Well, drats. Either I haven’t posted enough to have video “rights” or this old lady can’t figure out how to post a clip (quite possible) so I will try to describe what I do.

You will need: 2-3 icing buckets (free from local grocery bake shops); 2 pieces of wood per bucket about 18" long no smaller than 3/4" square (I have also used sturdy branches lying around); pet bedding or wood shavings or chips

  1. give your buckets a good cleaning
  2. pour in your syrup
  3. sprinkle a good layer of wood shavings/ chips on the surface of the syrup
  4. insert the two sticks to the bottom of the bucket and to keep them in place snap on the lid on one side.
  5. Place at least 100 yards away from the bee yard. My 5 hives will empty a gallon in about 3 hours. I try to dole it out to them in sips as I don’t want them to flood the hive and trigger the queen into swarming. Has worked so far. I see them capping it into food stores and still have all my bees :slight_smile:

Anyway I thought some might find this useful. I know I wish I had this information 3 years ago!

May your bee always be happy! --Pam

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Nobody can post video directly. You have to upload your video to youtube first, then post the link here. :wink:

Well no wonder I couldn’t figure it out. Now I know.

And you are very kind, Dawn, for editing out “old” :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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As my husband tells everyone, “You are only as old as the woman you feel”. He is talking about himself, and he is very naughty. :smile:


I sometimes wonder how much AFB there is where open feeding is the norm. It’s never done in the UK.

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Still photos would be nice. You have me intrigued.

edit: hit the little thick bar with an arrow up in the menue bar above and select the photo in your computer and download it. Phone cameras tend to take the right size for sending but camera hi res photos take a long time to download.

You make a good couple. :wink:


That is a good question that I don’t have an answer for. Someone like Michael Bush would know. I have my hives registered with our state so if there is any outbreak I should be notified.

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Thanks for the tip. I am not the most tech savvy person.

I am sure you can find what I am talking about on you tube if you search for bucket feeding or communal feeding videos. I don’t know how many people use the sticks but I think that, plus the good layer of wood chips, is why I don’t have dead bees.

Perhaps I have just been fortunate not to have other pests moving in that so many people on you tube describe. There is certainly no shortage of European hornets, yellow jackets and wasps around here. Maybe the honey bees empty it so fast they really haven’t had the opportunity to elbow their way in.

I know for a fact I have seen HUGE increases in hive beetles when syrup is present in the hive.

Dee made a good point about the possibility of disease being spread with this type of open feeding. I think I will bring the subject up at our next beekeepers meeting and see what some of the long time beeks have to say.

Every time I think I have a problem solved I just learn I don’t know as much as I think I do. :thinking:


If honey is open fed, there is a risk unless the honey is tested to be AFB free or irradiated.
Open fed sugar syrup is not such a great risk. There could be a few transferred spores via the feet, but that can happen on flowers too and the number of spores would be minimal.
The greatest risk would be by bees robbing a weak infected hive, but if the open feeding is at distance, the risk isn’t any greater than without open feeding.
In fact, the risk is greater without feeding.

I don’t open feed ever, my neighbours’ hives are too close, 800 air m. Don’t want to invite them over at all in a dearth.

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I have 75 apiaries within 10 k radius and those are just the registered ones. So I’m in the same boat :wink:

@Dee. That’s a huge number of apiaries too close for comfort, even if they were just one colony each, which is unlikely.
My neighbour just has one largely unmanaged hive, the next, also just one unmanaged, is 2km away, and the next ones (managed) are more than 10km away. So I’m lucky.
Do you find that the close proximity has a negative impact on your colonies?

Well you and Dee have certainly made me breathe easier. The one commercial apiary (100’s of hives) nearest to me is 30 miles away and the closest hives, owned by another backyard enthusiast, are 5 miles away. I live in such a rural area they have to pipe in air. :wink:


Yes it does because the more exuberant colonies rob out the collapsing colonies that some beekeepers don’t bother treating for varroa. Hence I have to treat some colonies similarly exuberantly :disappointed_relieved:

Once varroa takes hold on Australien shores, the weeding process will begin.
So far, beekeeping in Australia is fun and easy and even if you never look at your hives and just turn the honey key sometimes, colonies can survive for years under ideal conditions. AFB and slime outs and swarm outs happen, but one can get away unscathed for a while.
Those are nightmare beekeeping neighbours.
Or @Dee, are you saying that varroa didn’t weed out those neglecting beekeepers?
In any case, I wish we never see varroa here.

@creamcitylady, you are indeed lucky to have your own hives sort of quarantined via distance to others. Interesting what you said about frame feeding. Bees drowning and SHB. Won’t purchase any now, but saw one at the Australian Bee Congress that didn’t drown bees. Forgot which company that was.

It is what happens here with my hives. Could be other beekeepers have different situations/ results. Here is the proof. Opened up empty bucket from yesterday and there you are:
1 dead bee and 3 hive beetles promptly squished–nowhere near the hives.

As requested by Wilfred, photos of the bucket feeder/ feeding.

  1. Here is what you need. I purchase a large bag of pet bedding for convenience, but have used wood chips from a tree removal job and straw but found that to be too messy for my taste. I also like using small buckets which allows me to spread out the syrup so all the bees aren’t fighting over a single large container.

  1. Pour in your syrup, add a VERY liberal amount of shavings and go to your feeding site. Insert your sticks. You will have to keep adjusting the amount of shavings–you don’t want to see any open syrup like you do here at the base of the sticks. (I have learned to carry some extra shavings with me because walking with the full bucket can make everything move enough to need more.)

  2. After you have a good bed of floating stuff, snap on the lid to hold everything in place. We have been having frequent afternoon showers so for the bucket that is out in the open I use an old corflute political sign weighted with a stone paver. I point the opening away from our prevailing winds and it hasn’t blown off so far. Not sure how effective this really is as the bees seem to empty it in just a matter of 3 hours or so. I need to add here, this feeder is directly under my kitchen window. NO ONE can enter my house through the front door :open_mouth:but that is OK 'cause I love sitting here and watching them. :grinning:

  1. This picture is in a previous post, but it seemed a good idea to follow through with the bucket feeding subject. As mentioned before, I have noticed a lot of dead/ drowned bees with the “no drown” top feeders I tried, same for the frame feeders. Also a HUGE increase in the hive beetles in the hive with the presence of syrup. This is the litter from an empty bucket. The tally is 1 dead bee and 3 promptly squished hive beetles. All my buckets are placed at least 100 yards from any hives.

I don’t have 100 yards of distance across my property. Even 100 feet would be a challenge. Such are the joys of California suburbia! :blush:

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Well :poop:— Sorry, but this isn’t going to work for you Dawn. :slightly_frowning_face: Every environment presents it own problems & solutions.

How is the SHB situation in SoCal? It is perfectly awful here. The bees are run nearly ragged trying to chase them out of the hive. I recently built a long hive with the freeman oil trays in the bottom. WOW! Had nearly 100 beetles dead in the trays on day one. Has me thinking of ways to get anything under the SBB on the lang hives.

Also has me thinking I have aided the beetles using the SBB without any oil trays. Any larvae just had to simply drop to the ground and burrow to propagate so I likely have them in the ground all around my bee yard now :persevere: It might explain why I have seen such an increase in the little beasties this year.

Thanks for sharing all your experience with us still learning!


Manageable, but they are around in quite some numbers, and they love pollen patties. :nauseated_face: