How to Install a Feeder in a Warre Hive
If you have your bees in a Langstroth Hive, your options for feeders are vast. If you have a Warre Hive like I do, the options are much more limited.
Should we feed our bees sugar syrup?
Before we get into a good way to feed bees in a Warre Hive, I should address the fundamental question of whether to feed or not. Depending on what you read, or who you talk to, you will most likely find many different opinions on feeding bees. Some will say that they feed often, and others say they never feed. I think we should look to nature for the answer. A swarm in nature doesn’t have access to sugar syrup, but somehow they survive to a point. Their success rate isn’t great, 80% of natural swarms never make it out of the winter. Recent statistics show that beekeepers are losing 40-50% of their hives over the winter. I couldn’t find any statistics for natural established hives, but I would bet that more of them are surviving the winter than managed hives.
One of the reasons new swarms die, is that they have to work extra hard to build comb and store honey for the winter. They don’t have near as much time to get this done as an established hive that has already built comb, and still has some honey stores. So, I am not totally opposed to feeding a new package of bees to get them started. If you have honey from untreated bees to feed, that would be better than sugar syrup.
My strategy for feeding is since I do not have my own untreated honey yet, I will feed sugar syrup at a 1:1 ratio for the first 2 weeks. At the end of the two weeks, since we are in a heavy nectar flow, I will stop feeding all together. From the beginning of June until the end of August, I will not feed. At the end of the summer, I will check the hive weight to see if they have collected enough honey to get through the winter. If so, I will not feed, and will never feed that hive again. If they are light, I will feed again at the end of summer to help them build up stores for the winter. Hopefully, they will build up enough stores. Also, I will not take honey until they have a large surplus in the early spring. This may take a year or two. I am hoping that because my permaculture site contains tremendous bee forage, that my bees will be able to thrive without feeding.
How to Install a Warre Hive Top Feeder
I like using a double quart jar hive top feeder for the Warre Hive. The nice thing is that the feeder is inside away from predation, and you can easily access and refill the feeders without bothering the bees or opening up the hive. This can all be done without a bee suit or smoke, and not a single bee will be harmed in the process of refilling feeders.
1. Cut a square piece of canvas or burlap that matches the footprint of a Warre box.
2. Cut a small square in the middle of the canvas where the bees can access the feeder.
3. Place the canvas on the top bars of the top box. This is easy if your bees are not installed yet, if they are working in the top box, I used a little smoke to force them down, so they don’t get squished when you place the box and feeder on.
4. Place the feeder over the hole in the canvas or burlap.
5. Place a Warre box over the feeder.
6. Put the Warre top box with the fabric and insulation back, with the roof on top.