By Stephen D Liseki
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Beekeepers often feed sugar to bees before or during dearth periods. In temperate regions, the dearth period is winter, when temperatures fall to 0°C or below. However, in the tropics dearth periods occur either during dry periods or prolonged rainy periods.
The dearth period is a time of lower activity, when few or no bee plants are in flower. During this time tropical bee colonies might migrate or abscond from the hive in search of sites with better conditions for survival. That means a big loss of colonies might occur. One way to stop this is to feed the bees with sugar syrup. Sugar is used as the best substitute material for nectar although some other feeds with high sugar contents can also be used. These include date fruits, sweet bananas and sugar cane juice.
In temperate regions there are various techniques for feeding sugar to bees.
The purpose of our project has been to develop a feeding technique appropriate for the kind of top-bar hives and bees used in Tanzania.
The choice of feeder depends upon the type of hive used. Use of a frame feeder, or placing a cup of sugar in an empty super on top of a hive, are not always appropriate ways to feed bees in the tropics.
A good feeder
MAKING AND USING THE FEEDER
The feeder is built from a standard top-bar. Timber, hardboard and nails are all that are needed (see Figure 1).
The Tanzanian top-bar frame feeder is sloped at 10° in order to fit both types of top-bar hives we are using (0° and 10° sloped hives).
A piece of wire mesh covers the filler hole to prevent robber bees getting into the feeder. The holes should be placed as high as possible in order to increase the carrying capacity of the feeder. Melted beeswax (or paraffin wax) is poured inside the feeder to close all the gaps through which syrup might leak out.
The feeder should be placed at the rear end of the top-bar hive in order to make feeding easy (Figure 2). The feeder holds one litre of syrup.
These feeders have proved to be very successful and can be used with any type of top-bar hive (based on the measurements of the hive itself).
[Bees for Development Journal #38]