Under Pressure: DIY Honey Bee Feeder

This gangsta loves warm winters. You know who else loves warm winters? Beeeeeez nuts! Did I get you?

Warm winters are easy on honey bees because they can leave the hive more often, and considering that they won’t defecate inside the hive, getting out to spread their wings is probably a relief. Pun, intended.

Warm winters also allow the bees to break cluster more often, which means that they’re generally more active, whether they’re doing their undertaker duties, or leaving for cleansing flights. However, this increase in activity requires more fuel. As such, a colony in early spring after a warm winter often finds itself light on honey. This is a dangerous situation, particularly as brood rearing begins to go full tilt. A few days without stores can be fatal for the colony. During the coldest parts of winter beekeepers often feed emergency rations using fondant or sugar bricks, but when it’s warmer syrup can be fed. And if it’s warmer still, and the bees can fly regularly, syrup can be open fed using bucket feeders. In this post, we’ll walk through building your own bucket feeder.
Supplies are simple. You need a power drill, a 5/64 bit, and a bucket and lid.

When you choose your bucket, make sure you get the type that has the little support ribs along the top, like in the picture shown below.  The space between the ribs will act as little troughs where your bees will wet their whistles.

Hold your drill at an angle and place the tip of the bit in the inside corner of the trough as shown below. 

Drill the hole.

Repeat drilling in each of the troughs around the circumference of the bucket. That’s it. Fill the bucket with syrup and invert it. The little troughs will fill up and the bees will drink it down.  The picture below shows the trough full of syrup.

Don’t be surprised if the troughs overflow at first.  Now I’m going to get a little technical. Here’s how it goes down: when you invert the bucket, the syrup wants to fall toward the top of the bucket (now on the bottom) because gravity is pulling on it.  At this point, the small amount of air trapped above the syrup is forced to expand as the syrup is being pulled down.  The mass of this trapped air is constant, but its volume is increased, which causes a lower pressure.  This is Boyle’s law.  Remember that from high school chemistry? It says that pressure is inversely proportionate to volume for a constant mass. So why doesn’t the syrup just flow out of the bucket?  As the pressure atop the syrup decreases, it eventually reaches an equilibrium where the atmospheric pressure cancels the force exerted on the syrup due to gravity. Atmospheric pressure is actually pushing the syrup into the bucket, and this stops the bucket from leaking.  As the bees drink the syrup, small bubbles of air are eventually pushed inside the bucket and they float to the top of the syrup, which relieves some of the pressure and allows more syrup to flow until equilibrium is once again reached.  Booh yeah!

Whether or not you feed your bees is up to the individual beekeeper and it is pretty controversial in the bee world.  But this gangsta ain’t gonna tell you what to do. You, do you.  This method is simple, cheap, and doesn’t require opening any hives.  So how do you make the syrup? That’s a subject for another post.  Gangsta, out!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. BeeNuts says:

    Hey that’s a really neat way to make a rapid feeder! Just in case anyone confuses using this with a contact feeder (which is normally place over a hole in the crown board) I guess with this one its important to have a hole to one side in the crown board, so the bees can get up there and enjoy the syrup. Great tip – I shall use it.


    1. Hi BeeNuts, this method actually doesn’t have to be used in-hive at all. If it’s warm enough outside, you can just set it out and the bees will find it. Stay a few hundred feet away from your hives to discourage robbing. It works like a charm and you can feed five gallons at a time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ninjabrotha says:

    Purple drank for bees, son!


  3. Noopy noop says:

    Sip, sip, sippin’ on sum sizzurp.


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