Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Common Feeding

One of the simplest methods of feeding honey bees is the use of common feeding stations. These are containers of food placed in the open for the bees to find and feed upon. The common feeding of bees is simple for the beekeeper. A large amount of food can be placed near the bee yard fairly rapidly. The food that the beekeeper provides may mean the difference in a colony starving or surviving until natural sources of nectar and pollen become available. Placing pollen substitute in a pet feeder inside a five gallon pail is one form of common feeding. The pail, facing the east, provides protection from the weather. The common feeding of pollen substitute is a source of protein, and the queen is stimulated to lay eggs when pollen is brought into the hive. Syrup, either sugar or high fructose corn syrup, may also be fed to bees in a common manner. Syrup is merely placed in a container in the open. To prevent the bees from drowning, floats need to be placed in the syrup for the bees to rest upon while they are drinking and preening. Some beekeepers use hay or straw; I use old wine bottle corks.

Common feeding of syrup has some draw-backs that need to be considered. Bees sharing common feeding may spread some diseases, particularly Nosema, from colony to colony. More contamination, however, probably occurs from bees drifting into the wrong hive. Common feeding does not always provide equal food to each hive, and weak colonies may not receive enough of the food. The bees can only access syrup in the open in fair weather, and some of the bees being fed are from feral colonies or distant bee yards. Common feeding of syrup can encourage robbing behavior, and entrance reducers should be used to give the guard bees an advantage. Fumagillin, a treatment for Nosema disease, should not be applied in common feeding, because it is broken down by the sun.

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