I thought I would share some mistakes I've made in the feeding (to draw comb) in hopes that noone else will make such stupid errors.
Open feeding: Following the advice on a few threads on this site, I mixed up a 5 gallon bucket of 1:1 sugar water and left it open in my yard (2 hives in the backyard). I did float some pine needles on top, but I still had a 100-200 bees go to Davy Jone's Locker. Not devastating, but I would prefer to avoid that. Apparently some people have the talent to build a wooden float, complete with screen and bored holes and this appears to work well. I don't have the luxury of possessing that kind of talent, I'll hammer a nail sideways everytime. Instead, I bought a 3 gallon chicken waterer and had a lot more success, not a single dead bee and the same 2 hives took 3 gallons in one day (really just one hive did most of the drinking). They fed from the chicken waterer so fast that the tray was dry, consuming it as it poured out of the hole.
My biggest and costliest mistake was with a resevoir top feeder, the one that sits on top of your hive like a super and the bees crawl upwards into a screen mesh, giving them a private buffet. The functionality of the feeder works perfect, it was all in my execution. I use the migratory tops, and I failed to ensure the top was securely in place over the feeder. I left a rather large crack whereby the bees were easily able to directly access the sugar water from outside the hive. It remained this way for 4 or 5 days. The results were about 5 pounds of bees all drown...their decomposing bodies then attracted the yellowjackets by the dozens which attacked the hive. It was a sickening sight. The hive happened to be one of my weakest and I'm positive that the 5 pounds of bees weren't solely from that hive (there weren't 5 pounds of bees in there prior to feeding).
At least I came away from these mistakes learning this: 1. Keep your bees safe while open feeding 2. make sure your tops are always securely shut. I really hope noone else makes the mistakes I made.
As for the weak hive being attacked by yellow jackets, there were still a decent population and I put an entrance reducer (smallest hole) to help them defend against the yellow jackets. Overwintering for this hive could require a little TLC...and since they are caucasians, hopefully they will forage a couple weeks longer when it gets colder and have the opportunity to put back a few more stores.
Sorry to hear of the troubles. Thought I would share what I learned the hard way. I bought several small chicken waterers and filled with syrup and the bees went after them. Left them for a day and came back to find the bottles filled with bees. After the bottles are empty the bees will enter through the drain hole if large enough and cannot get out. I still use them but now I tape up the hole with duct tape and have drilled several small holes around the edge to let the syrup drain into the trough. I fill the trough with leaves, have had good luck with this, no more dead bees.
Ahhh...that makes since, thanks neighbor!!! I put pine needles in the trough of the chicken waterer, but the bees just dragged them out! I've heard marbles work great in the trough.
I was lucky because I pulled the waterer as soon as it was drained and opened it up so the bees could clean it out. After hearing your story, I count myself lucky that I didn't do the same thing!
Hey Brian, the trick with feeding from a bucket is not to use just pine straw. Lol. Sorry, had to pick at you. the tubes from dry Johnson grass works best, but packing the bucket with enough LONG sticks and using leaves, straw, twigs, etc to cover the majority of the syrup surface between the long sticks will work just fine... when I say long, I mean, sticking up out of the bucket at least 2' so that the sticky bees have a place to crawl up into the sun and groom each other without getting any more syrup on them... after the first batch, the bucket gets a grainy texture to the sides... this will enable the bees to move up and down on the walls with ease...
Continued... some guys slosh some hot wax around in their buckets to give them a wax surface for the bees, then cover the syrups surface with enough twigs that the bees can always reach the next twig and pull themselves out if they fall in... tip: do not open feed during periods where you may have queens taking mating flights, because they will surely see the cloud of bees and stop to take a look... and be balled when they do... just a tip for swarm season feeding, which isn't very practical anyways. Lol. Hope this helps!
Nice tips Robert, thanks for the advice!
Now you know what put the nail in the coffin for my caucasians! It was such a stupid mistake, I was too embarrassed to admit the feeding screw up.