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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Bawden

One Feeder to Rule Them All: Which Honey Bee Feeder to Buy

Updated: Mar 7


Over the years, we have tested out a lot of honey bee feeders here at Lloyd St Bees. We have found that every feeder has its purpose in the bee yard. The only feeder we strongly discourage for beekeepers is the boardman feeder. If you buy a bee kit from a big box store, it is most likely included in the package deal. Do yourself a favor and donate it to your beekeeping nemesis.


Here is a brief review of the pros and cons of the most common bee feeders:


Boardman feeder

boardman honey bee feeder
Don't be like this beekeeper using a boardman feeder

Pro

  • You can easily monitor the amount of syrup the bees ingest.

Con

  • Must be filled to capacity to create a vacuum.

  • Too small to feed a large colony without replacing the feeder multiple times a day.

  •  Robbing

  • The feed spoils quickly due to the exposure of UV.








honey bee frame feeder
Frame feeder installed in a ten frame colony

Frame feeder

Pro

  • Great for a small capacity feeding, typically 1 to 1.5 gallons

  • Can be filled to any level/not only full.

  • Can be used in the cold part of spring since the bees will keep the feed warm inside the hive.

  • Can be left in the colony indefinitely.

Con

  • Small hive beetles can invade the feeder and cause the feed to ferment quickly.

  • Tricky to remove the feeder from inside the colony when it still has leftover feed inside without dumping the syrup.





bee miller feeder
Brand new miller feeder, they don't stay this clean for long

Miller feeder or hive top feeder

Pro

  • The feeder has a capacity of up to four gallons.

  • Great for delivering large amounts of syrup quickly to a large/strong colony.

  • Excellent for putting on weight and drawing comb.

  • Can be filled to any level/not only full.

Con

  • Not easy to take off without spilling if it is full of partially full.

  • The feed is partially exposed to ambient temperatures.

  • Small hive beetles can invade the feeder and cause the feed to ferment quickly.


bucket feeders on nucs
Lloyd St Bees nuc yard getting feed with bucket feeders

Bucket feeder

Pro

  • One or two gallon capacity.

  • Small hive beetles cannot enter the feeder.

  • Easy to inspect and refill without disturbing the bees.

  • Feed doesn’t spoil as quickly.

  • It feeds the bees quickly but not as fast as the Miller feeder.

Con

  • Must be filled to capacity to create a vacuum.

  • Bucket can leak if the seal isn’t correct.

  • The feed is exposed to ambient temperatures.


Whichever feeder you decide on using for your colony, just make sure you use it. Feeding your nuc once you take it home is critical to the colony’s development, especially if you are trying to get your bees to draw comb on new foundation. We also encourage ALL beekeepers to feed their bees in the late summer to set their bees up for success going into winter.


Thanks for supporting local beekeeping!


Trevor Bawden

Lloyd St. Bees

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1 Comment


jrad2514
Mar 07

The article doesn’t say it but from the picture it appears you prefer top bucket feeders. I agree. They’re easy. The others are a pain and they need to be cleaned of dead bees

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