beekeeping equipment feeding bees

Mountain camp feeder: use for winter feeding only

I didn’t include the mountain camp feeder in my list of bee feeders because it isn’t appropriate for spring feeding. However, since several people have asked, I will explain what it is.

Winter feeding is different from spring feeding because syrup cannot be used. First of all, bees won’t take liquids in the cold weather. At a certain point they just stop. So if your hive is running out of honey, the spring nectar flow hasn’t begun, or the weather is bad, you need to feed them something else.

Also, you don’t want any liquid in your hives in winter. If it evaporates it further cools the hive; if it condenses on the cover and drips down on the bees you can seriously weaken the colony. Furthermore, disease and fungus can thrive in damp, cool conditions.

Many beekeepers boil sugar in water until it reaches the “soft ball” candy stage and then pour the mixture into a frame that looks like a shallow super with a bottom. The mixture hardens in place, and the board can be inverted over the brood chamber to provide an emergency food supply. This is called a candy board.

Other folks make a similar mixture and pour it into lightly greased paper plates. The hardened disks or “sugar cakes” can be popped out of the plates and placed on top of the frames in the brood chamber. This method eliminates the dead air space between the bees and the sugar, but does require a spacer or shim.

Another option is the mountain camp feeder, also known as the dry sugar method. A mountain camp feeder is just a 2” (5 cm) super mounted between the top brood box and the inner cover. Inside of the feeder you lay several layers of newspaper so it covers ½ to ¾ of the area over the frames. On top of that, you pour granulated white sugar. Bees are known for carrying sugar crystals out of the hive and disposing of them if it is warm enough to fly, so many beekeepers spritz the pile of sugar with water until it hardens on the surface.

There are several advantages to this method:[list icon=”plus”]

  • It is easy and quick. There is nothing to cook and no high temperatures to deal with.
  • The sugar tends to absorb moisture from inside the hive, keeping it drier.
  • The mountain camp rim can do double duty as a baggie feeder rim in the spring.
  • You can add Honey-B-Healthy or a similar product to the spritzing water as a dietary supplement.
[/list] Rusty


  • Dear Sir,

    I am interested in learning MORE about your
    MOUNTAIN CAMP Bee feeder and feeding Bees in General
    in the WINTER TIME. (All the BEES are in one cone

    I am an INVENTOR. I am now focused upon the COLONY
    COLLAPSE DISORDER that is sweeping the Bees World Wide.

    I have some innovative ideas tucked away in my brain
    that I am wanting to get out into the Market Place.

    I need to learn more about FEEDING BEES in the Winter

    THAT is a time when all the BEES are INSIDE the HIVE
    at one time.

    It may be a perfect opportunity to completely eradicate the Varrora Mite from that specific Hive
    before the SPRING activity starts.

    A Mite Free Hive at the start of Spring could give
    us all a better chance of a ZERO START on MITES
    at the BEGINNING of each Bee SEASON. That could
    be a step in the right direction of KNOCKING DOWN
    the World Wide population of Varrora Mites at the
    beginning of each season. WORLD WIDE

    Please tell me more about your winter feeding
    with your Mountain Camp Feeder.

    I may have a need for HUNDREDS of them…….if
    not Thousands.


    James Brooks

  • Hi Rusty,

    One question about the Mountain Camp Feeder: where do you place the newspaper? Directly on top of the frames I take it? Or is there a partial bottom on which the newspaper is laid, i.e. a hardware cloth bottom about 3/4 covering the rim? Sorry if this is clear and I just don’t get it! 🙂


    • Aaron,

      A mountain camp feeder has four sides and no bottom, just like a super. You just place the newspaper on top of the frames.

      • Hi Rusty, do you have a link where to buy the 2″ frame/super? I googled with no luck. Appreciate it, thanks! Love this quilt idea.

  • Oh, hey! This is exactly the thing a local keeper told me to do this winter (and it made great sense to me, so I did it). But I like the name “mountain camp feeder” EVER so much better than “a few sheets of newspaper with a paper plate and sugar or winter patty sitting on top of the frames.” Oughta trademark that! As always, thank you so much.

  • I know it’s been awhile since this post…. I’m wondering why you even need the box. I would think there is enough room between the top of the frames and the inner cover for the newspaper and a layer of sugar. Am I missing something? thanks

    • Dawn,

      I don’t want to open the hive every day in the winter. By putting a four or five-pound bag of sugar in there, I can go a week or two between feedings.

  • I have several hives that are swarm hives that I caught this summer and it seems they will not have enough time to have any honey stores. Any suggestions on how to get them through winter?

  • Can you explain why dry sugar cannot be used for spring feeding? I have a comb that I filled with sugar and hung in my top bar hive in an attempt to feed late in the season… They didn’t make it – but I was thinking maybe I could give the new package that comb to clean out.

    • Michele,

      Dry sugar isn’t used for spring feeding because the bees often carry it out and dump it instead of eating it.

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