Ziploc bag feeding

April 19, 2012


Here's a quick clip showing how (in my opinion) to best feed your hungry packages in the spring. The feeding shim is simply a spacer between your brood chamber and inner cover. This spacer creates room for a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of sugar syrup. I prefer this method for a few different reasons. First off, it's cheap! Secondly, and most important, the cluster keeps the syrup warm. Workers only have to travel a few inches to the top of the warm bag of syrup in order to fill up and return. With both the Boardman feeder (entrance/canning jar) and the Top-Box feeder, the syrup is far more removed from the heat of the cluster. That means bees have to leave the cluster, travel a substantial distance (minimum 8-10"), fill up on cold syrup, and then make it back to the cluster. In freezing temps, this is quite difficult. The biggest drawbacks to the Ziploc style of feeding are that you can't pour on several gallons at a time like with the top-box type feeders. You must check and refill every few days. Some packages will drain a bag in a day or two. Also, occasionally I have a package that decides they want to build comb in that extra space instead of down below. In this scenario, I scrape the comb out as soon as I notice it, and either remove the shim and feed (if they have stores down below) for a few days, or, I use sandwich bags full of syrup to take up all the extra space, so they don't have room to make burr comb.
It is very important to have a sharp razorblade on hand. After you lay the bag of syrup across your topbars, cut your first tiny slit with the razorblade. Gently press on the bag and let any air vent out. Next make a series of small slits with the razorblade across the bag. It is imperative to make these slits large enough that the bees can get syrup, but not large enough that they can fit through the holes when the bag is empty. Too big of holes, and they will crawl right inside when the bag is near empty. They will get inside, but they can't get back out. It really sucks to open a hive and find hundreds of suffocated workers inside your ziploc.
When it's time to change the bag out for a full one, it can be tricky trying not to squish bees. I hold the new bag right above the old one and lay it down as I'm pulling the empty bag from underneath. Any workers that manage to get stuck underneath anyway can be coaxed back between the topbars by carefully lifting a corner of the bag partway - just enough to lift some of the pressure off of them so they can sneak back down below.
Good luck with your new packages this year, and remember, you can always give me a call if you have any questions!