Feeding Bees During a Dearth
During a dearth the natural sources of nectar are very limited. It is very important that you feed your bees. The bees are active and need energy so they will be looking for food. However there are special considerations when feeding during the dearth. Until now you most likely have been feeding in the hive using a hive top feeder, an in-hive frame feeder or an entrance feeder. This may not be your best option during the dearth as this is the time that you will most likely experience robbing. This is particularly true of Italians. Strong hives will attempt to rob out weaker ones. For this reason you may consider community feeding. A word of caution, community feeding can also trigger robbing if not done correctly.
There are several types of community feeders.
This is the community feeder we use. We got the design from Joe May, the skinny bee man. We cut two inch holes in all sides of the tote near the top. This gives the bees a lot of access to the feed and still protects it from the elements.
Inside we first place 1x2 boards on the bottom.
They are cut about an inch shorter so they will float. Place them about an inch apart. Then cover the bottom with two to three inches of wheat straw. The boards will float and help keep the straw from packing down. Add 1 - 1 sugar syrup. You should monitor the feeders daily. Do not allow them to go dry as the bees will start looking for food elsewhere and robbing will begin.
I learned from Joe that it is also important that the feeders be located away from your hives. They should be 200-300 feet away and/or out of the line of sight. Preferably in a location where the bees have to navigate obstacles to get to them. This again is to discourage robbing. Our feeders are about 100 feet away but they are on the other side of a line of trees.
Remember, the Queen will lay according to the amount of food available. It is important to make sure there is adequate food to keep your hives strong and healthy.