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When you first introduce a colony into our hive body, unless you live in a place with an abundant nectar flow, you will most likely have to feed the colony sugar syrup. During the nectar flow (here in Virginia it’s mid-March to mid-June), the bees will not need to be fed sugar syrup and even if you do offer it to them, they will likely ignore it as they prefer harvesting the wild nectar. However, when the nectar flow stops, if the bees have not drawn out enough comb or stored enough honey, you will have to feed them. As a general rule, you should have around 15 top bars drawn out completely by late summer/early fall, which is the time the bees stop producing wax. 6-8 of those top bars should be full of capped honey for the bees to live off of over winter. In order for the bees to draw out comb, they need nectar or sugar syrup, which they use to produce wax. With a top bar hive, since there is no wax foundation sheets like you might see with a standard Langstroth hive, the bees have to work harder to build fresh comb. The advantage is that you get wax that is not tainted with chemicals as most wax foundation that is sold contains chemical residues. Wax is porous and sucks up chemicals easily. The first year of top bar beekeeping is always critical because of the need to produce drawn comb. Even if you are against feeding your bees, we recommend you do it your first year to give your bees the best chance for survival.
All of our hives come standard with a food grade 3 ½ liter container and plywood platform that allows you to feed the bees conveniently inside their hive. The plywood platform keeps your feeder off of the screen bottom board and allows bees enough room to crawl under it without fear of being squished. We also give you plastic shims to use as flotation devices to keep the bees from drowning. You could use wooden sticks as flotation devices, but those can get moldy. We also scrape the inside of your feeder with sand paper to allow the bees enough traction to crawl out. Sometimes the bees will draw out comb on the inside of your feeder to aid in climbing out.
The 3 ½ liter lets you feed the bees a lot of sugar syrup at once, which is convenient if you can’t get to your hives regularly. Also, since the feeder is contained within the hive, it attracts less attention from bees coming from other colonies. Robbing from other colonies can be a threat to your hive even if you only have one hive in your yard. If there are other bee hives within a 3 mile radius of you, you better believe those bees will be attracted to the smells emanating from your hive.
Read our suggestions for making sugar syrup here.