The Art of BEEing: The China Feeder

Recently I was in China on a business trip and happened to come across another beekeeper in the office there. He no longer had any bees of his own since he was living in an urban apartment, but he had grown up in the countryside in a beekeeping family and had worked with bees since he was a young child. While chatting with him, the topic of feeders came up and I told him about the one I made last year to get around some of the weaknesses I had observed in other designs. He looked at me oddly, then asked why I didn’t just buy one. The next day he came in with a website printout of the feeders his extended family still use and an offer to order one for me, which I happily accepted.

When the feeder arrived at my hotel a few days later I was surprised by it’s simplicity. Designed to use over an inner cover with a round hole, it is a food grade plastic box just smaller than the flat area of a typical inner cover. In the center there is a raised conical structure that opens to a hole roughly 1 1/8 inch in diameter, and the surface of this feature have molded ridges so the bees have something to walk on. A clear cap, also with ridges, sits over the cone with a reasonable bee space between them. Topping it all off is a lid to help keep debris out and other insects out and evaporation losses down. As an unexpected side benefit, the box provided a protected space within my suitcase on the way home for a few other, more fragile, items I purchased while there.


I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out, particularly as the summer feeding season is fast approaching in the desert. Since my hive needs ventilation in the scorching summer, I couldn’t use a regular inner cover as it was designed for, so I created a ventilated base with standoffs to hold the feeder and allow access while maintaining as much ventilation area as possible, including most of the area under the actual feeder. I then added a few blocks to help locate the feeder and hold it in place, and finally built a “mini-super” surround for the feeder.

Once on the hive I added half a gallon of sugarwater, and when I checked back a few hours later the bees had found their way up to it with no real issues, though it did look a bit crowded to me at the relatively small entrance . All in all it holds about a gallon and a half with no seams to worry about leaking, and the lid helps to reduce the evaporation losses and effects of feeding in the desert. In the cooler feeding seasons I probably will go back to a standard inner cover as I am slightly concerned about the possibility of condensation on the plastic with the vented base.

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