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Contact Feeders

A common way of feeding syrup to bees

Contact feeders have been used for a long time in different forms. They are a closed container that is filled with liquid feed. There is a tight fitting airtight lid, with either fine holes in or gauze, so when the lid is fixed in place, the container is inverted, allowing the food to drip out until a vacuum is created. Then the feeder is placed over the colony, where the bees suck the food out of the holes or gauze, the food being replaced by air, but the vacuum is retained. To prevent wastage and possible robbing, the excess drips are caught in a container, usually another feeder.

Beekeepers used to make their own contact feeders by using lever lid tins (often 28lb honey tins) or glass jars and punching holes in the lid with a frame nail, but plastic contact feeders, with fine gauze moulded into the lid, have become readily available from equipment suppliers. These are known by beekeepers as "bucket feeders". There are several sizes and as the body is tapered, they stack inside each other for storage.

Contact feeders are a cheap and easy way of feeding bees, but there are a few problems with them. They usually need something to surround them such as empty supers or brood boxes. If they leak, it is free food for wasps. When there is sharp variation in temperature the food expands with heat and can be forced out of the holes in the lid. When the feeder is empty, the bees usually propolise the holes or gauze, although these can be cleared by running hot water from the tap or kettle over the lid. Plastic feeders can degenerate if left in the light, so they become brittle and crack. They aren't a good feeder for those with out-apiaries or commercial beekeepers, but if looked after well, they are adequate feeders for small-scale beekeepers.

Roger Patterson.

Page created 04/09/2022