Bees store up food reserves for the cold season, when flowers whither and pollen becomes scarce. The bee menu begins and ends with honey, a substance bees produce by regurgitating nectar to produce a sweet food source they store within the hive. Feeding bees a sugar water “nectar” in a do-it-yourself bee feeder is a great means of attracting pollinating bees and, for the beekeeper, to help underperforming colonies through the winter.
A jar feeder requires only its namesake supply: a jar. You can use any size, from a jelly jar to a gallon-size pickle jar; but no matter the size, thoroughly clean it with a new lid to ensure the best seal possible. Hammer three or four holes small enough for a bee's tongue -- an eighth-inch or smaller -- with a small nail, then invert the tightly lidded jar, either hanging it or resting it on a base that allows bees access to the feeder lid. The jar feeder, like all feeders, should be filled with a sugar-to-water mixture that ranges from 1-to-2 to 3-to-1, depending on the time of year.
A pail feeder is similar in design to a jar feeder but with the benefit of being bigger, requiring fewer refills. Be careful, though, as it's also heavier and, if spilled, creates a lot more waste. Procure a non-leeching, BPA-free pail and fill it with the desired ratio of sugar to water bee food, then, as with the jar feeder, poke six or seven holes in the lid in a tight grouping. Once the pail is filled with sugar water, affix the lid securely and carefully invert the feeder. Pail feeders are a favorite of beekeepers, who place them in empty supers atop hives.
DIY projects don't get much easier than the baggie feeder -- just a food-grade, zip-top bag three-quarters filled with bee food and made available to bees in a hive. Place the baggie of feed on top of a hive or, if you're trying to attract wild bees to a yard, set it in an outside area, then, with a razor, cut two or three slits in the bag, about 4 inches in length, away from baggie edges and running parallel to the entrance. A baggie feeder in a hive should have an empty super around it, which provides room and protects against other insects finding it.
Candy Board Feeder
A candy board feeder is a box frame built to fit an existing hive, with an entrance hole drilled into the front and hardware cloth affixed with poultry staples to create a bottom. Line the frame with newspaper to create a floor the bees will eventually eat through. Mix a half-tablespoon of vinegar, 1½ cups of water and 8 pounds of sugar, then pour it onto the frame's newspaper floor. Once the sugar hardens, place the candy board in the hive and replace the inner and outer covers.
Rodney Wilson is owner and manager of Goldfinch Farm in central Kentucky, where he oversees veterinary and management practices for a diverse group of animals, from dogs and cats to pigs and chickens. He's written professionally since 2001, with articles appearing in such publications as The Cincinnati Enquirer, CiN Weekly, Baby Guide and Akron Life.