South-central Colorado, 7,000 feet elevation. Sunny, slightly breezy, and 57°. I opened this hive to see how the food in the in-hive top feeder was holding out. It was warm enough that I went ahead and removed the top feeder and looked in the top box of the two 8-frame deeps this hive consists of.
This hive is full of bees and it’s only March 4th.
On just the second frame in from one side, in the top box, I discovered this:
There’s capped brood under those house bees. Here’s a close-up:
Having a surplus of honey from another colony, I decided to add half of a full frame of honey to this colony’s top feeder. That was easy to do because I cut the capped honey out of a foundationless frame (something you cannot do with a frame with foundation).
There was a light dusting of mold on the capped honey, but it is not bad for the bees. According to some sources, one of the molds frequently found on combs is Penicillium waksmanii which can actually inhibit the growth of certain bacteria, including American foulbrood.
As a bee-centered beekeeper, I try to avoid moving or swapping frames inside the hive. The bees know best what’s best for the bees, and I trust them to construct the hive to their best advantage. I also do not believe that supplemental feeding is best for the bees if you’re trying to develop an ecotype (which is exactly what I’m doing), except when necessary to get them through the winter… and that’s the only reason I’m feeding them in this instance.
So, an in-hive top feeder allows me to give them some additional honey from my apiary without disturbing any of the work they’ve done inside their hive. They can bring the honey down into the hive and put it exactly where they want it.
Below is that half frame of honey laying in the top feeder. There is a lid that goes on over the tray to completely seal it from above. The bees are able to access the food, from below, through the cone-shaped opening.
I build these top feeders myself. They are designed to work in conjunction with my Bee Tree™ inner covers that allow the bees to control the ventilation in the hive themselves, and nothing I do throughout the year changes the ventilation they’ve created. This gives them the entire season to prepare the hive for winter.
One advantage to this top feeder is that the bees access the food from inside the hive, all year round, and bees from other colonies cannot get to it. (I’ve learned to NEVER feed bees out in the open. I did that in 2015 and my bees contracted Varroa mites from bees outside of my apiary that came to that open food.)
I had put some honey-filled comb in this top feeder a couple of weeks before and the bees completely cleaned it out: