Top 9 Best Bee Feeders in 2020
Bees are hardy creatures. They can fly up to five miles from their hive to collect honey, they can communicate through a complicated language of pheromones, and their hives can survive even some of the harshest winters that nature can throw at them.
Yet, if you want to make sure the hive you’ve invested in stays strong, you may want to introduce a bee feeder.
There are a ton of different bee feeders used for different purposes, so we’ll try to cover the best bee feeders on the market. You’ll need to decide ultimately which one fits your needs and will help your beekeeping efforts the most.
If you don’t have enough time to read our entire article, then just click here for our favorite bee feeder on the market. Also, don’t forget to pick our favorite bee feeding stimulant to fill your feeder.
Our Top Picks for the Best Beefeeders in 2020
- Ultimate Hive Feeder for Beekeepers 2 Pack from Farmstand Supply (In Hive)
- Harvest Lane Honey
- Mcupper-10PCS Honey Entrance Feeder
- Mann Lake Entrance Feeder
- Boardman Entrance Feeder
- Beekeeping Bee Hive 10-frame Hive Top Feeder
- Entrance Bee Feeder Beekeeping Beehive Bees
- Little Giant Farm & Ag BKTFDR2 Bucket Feeder, 2 gallon
- Little Giant Farm & Ag FRAMEFDR Frame Feeder, 3-Quart, Black
First, what exactly IS a bee feeder?
Why and When do you Need a Bee Feeder?
Bee feeders are exactly what they sound like.
They give extra nutrient support to your hive when they don’t have enough honey stores to feed from. Yes. Honeybees eat their honey, it’s not meant for you and me… even though we’ll gladly take it.
This is why beekeepers need to carefully measure how much honey they choose to extract from each hive if they want to keep their hives alive and strong. Most of the time, if your bees have a normal summer season to pollinate, you won’t need to give them any extra support.
Like I said… bees are pretty hardy and resourceful creatures. They know how to take care of themselves.
There are a few exceptions though.
The first major exception is when you’re just starting out with a new hive colony. Usually, the man-made hives with their frames won’t come with any starting honey to fuel that colony. Since the packaged bees you bought are not yet familiar with their new geography, they need time to get a lay of the land to find food sources to harvest from.
That is why we recommend having a bee feeder set up to feed this new colony for the first few days. Usually, you’ll only need to support their feed for a week after they have been installed into the hive. By then, their scouts have mapped out the local area and their worker bees are zipping back and forth doing their beautiful thing.
Another exception is if the pollinating season was a particularly weak one for the bees. If they couldn’t harvest enough honey, they won’t be able to support themselves during the harsh winter months when there are zero food sources for them.
This is why you’ll want to check your hives occasionally. Make sure your hive frames are filled up with honey for the bees to chow down on. A hive can go through 60-80 pounds worth of honey over the winter season, so keep this in mind when you’re extracting your honey harvest.
During winter you should check on your bees more frequently. Also, just because they made it through the winter doesn’t mean they’ll make it during the spring. Spring is another time where their food supplies are likely short since they had to consume so much during the winter season and the flowers have yet to truly bloom for them to pollinate. Many a beekeeper has helped their hives through winter only to be dismayed finding their hive dead by the end of spring.
As I mentioned above, there are MANY different types of bee feeders out there.
First though, if you just want to skip what is the BEST feeder, check out our table below:
Best Bee Feeders for Beekeepers in 2019
ou can also make homemade bee feeders, but I would recommend against it if you’re a brand new beekeeper. Since you’re still learning a lot of your craft, you might as well make sure your equipment is at least quality before going off to make your own. The nice thing is that bee feeders aren’t terribly expensive and you can reuse them over and over again if you maintain your equipment.
As a frugal homesteader, I certainly hope you ARE putting in the effort to maintain your equipment!
Need more information? Well, keep reading below!
6 Types of Bee Feeders
Alright, so what are the different types of bee feeders? Which ones are the best for your specific situation?
Bee feeders break down into five different groups that have advantages and disadvantages all of their own. Again, your situation is going to be unique so it is good doing some research before buying bee feeders or looking at stores selling bee feeders near you. As they say, knowledge and preparation is more than half the battle.
Let’s help you win that battle real quick.
1: Entrance Feeders – Easy to Use for Beekeeper Beginners
When it comes to maintaining the feed, entrance feeders are your easiest option. Entrance bee feeders sit on the outside of the hive using a tray to hold the feed at the hive’s entrance. Since it sits on the outside of the entrance, the proactive beekeeper doesn’t have to disturb their bees when they go to refill it. Plus, it is easy to see when the feed is empty so you know when to refill it.
While you get easy access with entrance bee feeders, you have some big disadvantages using them as well.
For one, the tray doesn’t hold a ton of feed for your bees. This means you’re going have to refill it often. Plus, since it is on the outside of the hive, it is very easy for “robber bees” to fly in and steal the feed or other hive predators who are interested in some sugary water.
Also, during the winter months, the cold temperatures will easily freeze the liquid feed, so you might want to switch out with a different kind of bee feeder as summer fades into fall and fall into winter.
However, the entrance feeder remains probably one of the most user-friendly design styles. If you’re just starting out with your colony and it’s early in the season, then this can be a great solution for you.
2: Open Air Feeders – Avoid, Avoid, Avoid!
Open-air feeders are similar in concept to the entrance feeder. They both sit outside, both easy to maintain and both easy to refill.
However, open-air feeders are probably the worst option for you when it comes to keeping your hive strong. The bees will tend to fight around the open-air feeder rather than working together, which will lead ultimately to a weaker hive as they jockey for position around the food.
Second, since this is a completely open tray of food, you’re going to attract A LOT more hive predators than you would with an entrance feeder.
Skunks, birds, wasps and even bears will be attracted to these feeders. This makes the very act of going to the feeder a potentially dangerous situation for your bees. Not to mention the feed can become contaminated by various germs that cause a honeybee that successfully feeds on the liquid to carry back diseases to the hive.
These are ALL things you should avoid as much as possible. We can’t really recommend you to use an open-air feeder, especially when there are so many great options in the other styles that helps protect your bees.
3: Internal Hive-Top Feeders: A Cosy “Indoor” Solution
The internal hive top feeder is another apiarist favorite to maintain their hives with. This kind of feeder sits right on the top of your hive, and right below the hive cover that keeps the bees from flying out. It can hold quite a lot of feed… but don’t worry.
They have mechanisms built into the feeder that will prevent it dripping out everywhere and drowning your bees. So no need to worry about killing your bees in a tsunami of delicious food waves.
The internal hive top feeder is often a good way to go for feeding your bees in winter as well. You still want to make sure the feed doesn’t freeze though during the colder weeks. Since the feeder is also on the inside of the hive, it is better protected from would-be predators by both a physical barrier to entry and a swarm of bees that will be enraged for trying to steal their personal property out of their home.
The one downside of this style is when you go to remove it. If the feed is still full, you’re likely going to spill it everywhere. But meh… a little sugar syrup water on your beekeeping suit won’t hurt anyone and your bees will thank you for the sacrifice.
4: External Hive-top Feeders – For Enterprise Commercial Beekeepers
These are the heaviest bee feeders around. It is basically just a container that sits on the outside of the hive. You position it right on top of the hive so it’s within easy reach of your bees. Thanks to its girth, you can hold a TON of feed here.
That is why commercial beekeepers that are tending multiple hives, perhaps multiple dozens, tend to use external hive top feeders as their feeder of choice.
The container is inverted over the top of the hive’s inner door or even in an empty super. These containers are not exposed to air so the syrup is in no danger of molding. However, as I mentioned, these things are a BEAST.
They weigh a ton!
Because of this weight, on rainy days there might be a chance of these feeders slipping off and splashing everywhere. No one, beekeeper or not, wants to see all that feed syrup wasted – especially the bees.
Be careful how you place these to make sure they’re secured to the hive.
Outside of that though, this is a great solution for the commercial beekeeper who is business and productivity minded with their homestead. If you’re just starting out with beekeeping, you’ll probably want to avoid these cumbersome feeders until you get a few more hives under your belt.
5: Division Board or Frame Bee Feeders: Keeps Away the Predators
Division board bee feeders, also called frame bee feeders, are probably the best solution for you if you’re beekeeping in an area with a lot of natural predators. Maybe you have a few hives on your homestead, but you haven’t really built any kind of fence yet around your property.
If there is a bunch of wildlife around that will be curious about your sugar syrup water, then the division board is the right call for your bees.
How the frame bee feeders work is that it is placed directly inside the hive. They are designed to replace one frame, and they hold quite a lot of feed. This means you’ll only have to refill it every now and then, versus something like an entrance feeder which requires frequent refilling.
The second thing that makes these division boards so great is that it provides the best protection against predators. Since it literally sits inside of the hive, very few predators will be curious enough to perform a home invasion on a beehive to get to the syrup.
You will have to open your hive unfortunately to refill these feeders, and while they last a long time… you will definitely want to check on the progress your bees have made with the feed routinely. If you leave the division board in for too long after the feed is gone, the bees will merely shrug their shoulders and start building honeycomb within the division board.
There is one other imperfection you’ll need to watch out for…
While it is in the best interest of every division board bee feeder maker to claim that they won’t drown the bees that go inside to feed, drowning will still happen. There is just no way to make sure 100% of the bees can feed safely with it.
Even with the inclusion of ladders, chutes, and easy access to get in and out, it’ll still happen. So don’t be alarmed when you see this if you decide to use this feeder style. If your hive is really weak, for whatever reason, you may even want to avoid this style until the colony can get its strength back.
6: Baggie Feeders: Great for Giving Your Bees Medicine
Baggie feeders are ziplock bags in a rim expander. You fill the plastic baggies up with the syrup, then place the bag into the hive. Similar to the division board style, these bags are well protected from outside predators.
They also survive well during the winter months because the bees will keep the honey warm due to their clustering and cuddling habits during cold days. One of the big advantages of baggie feeders is that it is easy for you to intermix medicine into the feed to make sure your hive is healthy.
This is a great solution to treating diseases or proactively treating the potential of disease in your hives.
You will want to make sure your baggie feeders are using the heavy freezer style of ziplock bags, as these tend to work the best. When you make the slit into the baggie, use a sharp knife so as not to “push” down on the baggie. This will let the baggie do a slow drip of feed into the hive.
Since the feed does a slow drip, it won’t drown your bees like the division board might when the bees go to feed.
These bags can be several gallons, so make sure you have enough room in between your frames to place them within the hive. There should also be room for the bees to gather around the bag within the hive. To help with this, you should only fill the bags one to two-thirds full.
The problem with baggie feeders is that it is not overly sustainable.
The ziplock bags are one use only, so it’s not great for the environment. We’re big believers in that we should do as much as we can to protect the environment. After all, it is a big reason why we decided to teach people about how cool it is to be a beekeeper. Bees are great for the world at large… plastic bags not so much.
Since these are one-time use items, you will also need to purchase more plastic baggies every time you want to refill the feed. While we can recommend the baggie feeders for dispensing medicine to your hives easily, we would recommend not using them too often for environmental reasons.
Plus, who wants to buy something over and over again? We’re homesteaders! We buy quality and that quality lasts us throughout the years.
Top 9 Bee Feeders in 2019: Individually Reviewed for You
Now you have the knowledge, so let’s break down the actual products from our chart above. We’ll be looking briefly at each feeder, and whether you should use it or not.
It is important to note, this is OUR review.
Your experience may differ depending on your situation. What we might consider a bad feeder (like baggie feeders due to the environment), you might find that feeder to be a perfect fit for your needs.
Let’s dive into it, shall we?
The Mcupper is a cheap entry-level entrance bee feeder. If you’re looking for a high-quality bee feeder, you may want to avoid this one. However, if you just want a cheap option to set up an effective feeder, Mcupper can be a great solution for you.
It does get the job done, just be aware that it is not going to be the best build quality. You get what you pay for in this case. Still, a great option for the more frugal minded beekeeper. The Mcupper comes with 10 pieces as well, so one purchase can serve multiple bee nucs if you’re starting them all at once.
The Harvest Lane entrance feeder is a container made of sturdy glass with a plastic bottom that can connect into a Langstroth hive. While it might look like you can make this into a top hive feeder, this product is purely an entrance feeder that needs to be threaded into the hive’s entrance.
One thing to be careful with this feeder is that the feeding holes are pretty small. You could widen these holes to let more bee traffic inside the container to feed easier though.
Probably the most inexpensive bee feeder on this list, the Mann Lake is a great entry option here for a beekeeper starting out. Please note you’ll need to provide your own mason jar to attach to the Mann Lake feeder though. Pretty much any mason jar will work.
Based on the design, you will want to monitor the feeder to make sure no ants crawl into the feeder. Otherwise, this is a perfectly fine option for feeding your bees
This entrance feeder is a sturdy contender, and one of our favorite bee feeders around. It has a metal base with unfinished wood, providing a sturdy piece of support for your mason jar. Unfortunately, you will need to supply your own mason jar or glass jar to invert over the feeder. As with all entrance feeders, it is easy to see how much feed you have left for your bees and easy to change out with a new jar of feed when the hive is ready.
This is a solid choice for a top bee feeder for your hives. If you do decide to use this bee feeder, make sure you check on your hive frequently to make sure the floats are working. The floats and side walls help to keep your bees from drowning. While it is rare, it is possible this feeder could have a defect with the floats that can lead to bees drowning in the hive. Never a fun day!
Despite that, it is rare and as mentioned above with any kind of division frame feeder, you’re going to drown a bee here or there using this style.
Another entrance bee feeder, this one has the more stylish all pine look going for it versus plastic. As with most of the other entrance bee feeders on this list, you’ll need to have a separate quartz or mayonnaise jar to install onto the feeder.
A pragmatic example of a top hive-bee feeder, this inverted bucket will slowly drip honey into your hive. This feeder, in particular, is great for larger hives since it provides multiple holes that allow for fast feeding. Unlike using an inverted mason jar, the Little Giant Farm feeder drips a bit quicker and can also hold significantly more at two gallons. You will want to make sure the lid is sealed tight and of course to check on the bees when you first install it. It is always important when drip feeding food to the bees that you are checking to make sure they aren’t drowning.
The main issue with the Little Giant Farm other than sometimes a too-tight lid, is that you could make this feeder yourself by using just inverting most buckets with some holes in it. The nice thing is, if you’re like me and a bit lazy, you can just buy this that already did the work for you.
This is a great example of a top external hive-bee feeder. You could use it potentially as an internal bee feeder too. The Ultimate Hive Feeder takes a more unique design to feeding bees, implementing a trough system rather than an inversion system (i.e upside-down bucket, jar, etc.)
As the syrup gets lower in the trough from the multitude of bees feeding upon it, a spring-loaded valve goes off to pump more syrup into the trough for the bees to feed. This trough system is used often for bigger farm animals, and honestly, it works just as well for the bees.
The unique design and ease of use once you master this feeder makes it one of our favorites.
This is one of our favorite feeders out there as well. The Little Giant Farm Framefdr is a bit tricky to put together at first, but once you’ve assembled it you can easily place it into your hive. Since this is a division frame, you won’t attract many outside predators but you may have an issue with beetles trying to sneak in.
Keep an eye on it when you first install it to make sure no beetles are stealing food from your bees.
Otherwise, it is easy to set up and the chutes should have minimal potential for your bees to hurt themselves when using it to feed.
How to Feed the Bees
Once you have selected your bee feeder, it is time to actually get the feed. There are two ways to get the feed, you can either make it yourself or buy the feed pre-made. Some of the pre-made feeds have added extra nutrients that help strengthen your bees.
If you’re looking for the most minimal setup, then we recommend just making the feed yourself as it is pretty easy. The most common ratio is doing 1:1 sugar to water to create a syrupy solution to fill up the feeder with.
If you want to go about feeding your bees with a pre-made solution, then we recommend Bountiful Bee’s Brood Booster or Honey B Healthy Feeding Stimulant. Both are commonly used solutions by beekeepers, and they both can help augment your homemade feed to give your bees more nutrients and ultimately strengthen the hive.
Remember, you do not need to keep a bee feeder on your hive year-round. For the most part, your bees are going to forage plenty of honey to keep them alive. After all, wild bees have been doing it successfully for thousands of years without any help from a man-made feeder.
Still, a feeder is an important tool in any beekeeper’s toolkit.
The primary time you’ll want to use a feeder is when you first buy a nuc to create a new hive and during the winter months. A new hive still hasn’t found its legs yet to forage successfully, so it’ll need a helping hand from you.
For bees entering the winter months, if they had a bad summer or it is a particularly harsh winter, you’ll want to use a feeder. In the case of the winter months, you will want to use a kind of syrup mixture that doesn’t freeze during the cold weather. Because of freezing issues, we typically recommend getting a feeder that can be placed internally, whether a top feeder or a division feeder, so that way the natural heat from within the hive can keep the syrup from freezing.
Which Bee Feeder is Right for You?
As you can see, there is A LOT of options for you and your specific beekeeping needs. As an aspiring (or professional?) apiarist, you’re gonna have to decide what makes the most sense for you.
Entrance feeders are usually more than enough to get a colony going. Yet, they’re not the best when it comes to the winter months which may or may not be a problem for you. For the colder months, we would recommend a division feeder thanks to the hive’s internal heat.
The nice thing about buying high-quality bee feeders is that you can often reuse them for a long time. Unless, of course, you end up growing your bee farm to dozens of hives. In that case, you’ll want to stock up on a few different kinds of feeders to meet your needs – i.e having baggie feeders to distribute medicinal syrup to the bees.
Most feeders are fairly straight forward devices and won’t need too much time to install. When you do decide which feeder is the right one for you, make sure to check in on your hives frequently until you get comfortable with how they’re reacting with the feeder.
This is always a good practice regardless of how good a feeder supposedly is!
If you’re brand new to beekeeping or just want to stock up on other “great-to-haves” when it comes to growing your apiary, make sure you check out our other beekeeper gear reviews below: