feeding bees

Peek inside a feeder frame

Back in October, Vince Poulin of British Columbia sent us pictures of a feeder frame he designed for feeding nucs that were stacked one atop the other for winter. I thought it was a creative idea that solved a problem with stacked colonies—they can be hard to feed without much disruption.

As a follow-up, Vince has sent along some photos of the inside of some of his colonies that are equipped with the feeder frames, allowing us to see what goes on in there. He writes:

Coming through Hong Kong from Thailand this past weekend, I bought a very inexpensive endoscope ($3 CDN). It is a hoot. I bought it to try and get images inside a feeder frame, a cheap little thing that actually works. Unfortunately, the light is not strong enough, but by having my son hold the endoscope along with a mobile phone light, it works. Not super images, but proof that feeder frames work well.

This is a small cluster of bees sitting just above the candy cake in my white condo.
This is a small cluster of bees sitting just above the candy cake in my white condo. All photos taken 2019-12-22 by Vince Poulin.
This is the same cluster with an image on the side. The cluster extends upward from the brood chamber and flows out on top of the sugar cake to the ceiling.
This is the same cluster with an image on the side. The cluster extends upward from the brood chamber and flows out on top of the sugar cake to the ceiling.
Photo showing a feeder frame opening on yellow condo.
Photo showing a feeder frame opening on yellow condo.
Another opening image. This one is our blue condo that sits below our stacked yellow condo.
Another opening image. This one is our blue condo that sits below our stacked yellow condo.

I recently changed the Snellgrove board on the yellow hive with the blue one you see immediately on top of the blue condo feeder frame. I needed to modify the Snellgrove board so I could use an oxalic acid vaporizer with the board. Initially, I thought it not necessary but then realized it’s best to have an opening for the hive tool.

I modified this board so I could make a quick switch. The odd looking piece of wood fits a slot I cut out for a vapourizing tool.
This shows the cluster of bees inside our green hive feeder frame. It is our most populous hive. Lots of bees. This hive is ready for another sugar cake.
This shows the cluster of bees inside our green hive feeder frame. It is our most populous hive. Lots of bees. This hive is ready for another sugar cake.

I think both the feeder frame and the endoscope are cool ideas. I checked Amazon for endoscopes and they have a zillion, but nothing as inexpensive as the one Vince found. If someone has a recommendation for one they like, please let us know.

Honey Bee Suite

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Feeder frame designed by Vince Poulin.
Feeder frame designed by Vince Poulin.


  • There seems to be several choices of borescopes via Ebay running in that general price range, though most I saw are Android smartphone only capable. They range in diameter size from 5mm to 7mm (3/16″ to jut over 1/4″)

  • Mr Poulin’s winter feeding idea seems to be working well. However, it’s very hard to understand the photos he’s taken. I truly wish he could supply more information as to how he constructed the feeder system. I’ve always wanted to attempt (stacked) nucs over winter periods but it seems the success rate is never favorable. I always use candy boards and moisture boxes on my 10-frame double deeps as Rusty has described in previous years’ forums but would love to attempt 5-frame stacked nucs and I’m sure that feeding them would be essential.

  • I just read Mr Poulin’s comments on how he built his overwintering nuc stacks. Sorry for not reading that first. I was confused by his use of the word “frame”. He refers to the thin boxes as frames and I was thinking along the lines of a Langstroth deep frame. It makes sense now. Would truly like to hear how his system works this winter.

  • 🙂 The guy is in Hong Kong. In a year he’ll be able to an IPhone 15 knock off. Great photos and clever ingenuity!

  • David – when I wrote the post I needed a way of describing it. Candy board, eke, shallow “super” all didn’t seem to work. The notion of a “frame” – came to mine. A “box-frame” might have worked as well but I liked the idea of calling it a “feeder-frame” for which it is specifically designed. Building them is easy. My hive boxes (brood and supers) are made from waste wood (cut-offs from house framing) 2X10’s, 2X12’s, 2X8’s. I used the same wood for the feeder-frames. Thus my boxes are all of 1.5″ thickness. To make the feeders I simply I ripped the wood down to 2″ wide. This became the height of the feeder frame with the depth left the same dimensions as the original 2X10 (1.5″). My sugar cakes are just a tad over 1″ thick. To provide a bit extra space I gave the opening 1.5″. With a feeder height of 2″ and an opening of 1.5″ this left 0.5″ for cross-braces that are needed to hold the sides together. Because we need two (a top and bottom) those became 0.25″ in height. Most people have Langstroth boxes which are typically build using 3/4″ stock, not stuff 1.5″ thick. So in the case of making a frame for a Langstroth the frame would be made to 3/4″ X 2″ dimensions if you liked the 2″ height. You then need to match the width and length of a Langstroth box. Front strips are nailed and glued to the two sides top and bottom. You need to cut 0.25″ rabbits in the side rails to secure them. As for how the frames are working – brilliantly – could not be better. They allow you to easily monitor sugar cakes and when to add more. They are so easy there is no reason for any hive to run out of food or not be sure there is sufficient winter food available. Inspections do not allow much heat to escape. Inspections take seconds. Cakes can be slid inside and pushed to where every you want them. My hives are Warre sized boxes – which means half the size of Langstroth. Brood box dimensions are correspondingly much smaller which means a sugar cake covers a good portion of the area of top frames in the hive. Bees don’t have far to travel to get to sugar. Cakes sit right on top of frames no more than a bee space away. In two of my hives bees cluster all over a sugar cake with both extending right to the bottom of quilt bases. I’ve drawn a quick sketch with dimensions to help explain how I built mine. You can see from the sketch – a pretty simple concept that boils down to being a 2″ spacer. Of course I first built them so as to be able to feed my stacked NUC’s but they are a nice addition to a stand alone winter hive.

  • Vince – Thank You for the further explanation. I also build my own equipment and quite often incorporate what scrap lumber is available. To me that’s one more reason to be called a true beekeeper. My wife calls it hoarding but I like to think of it as taking advantage of what’s offered and it also gives us a chance to be inventive. I will certainly take advantage of what you’ve done. Always wanted to attempt to overwinter stacked nucs but wasn’t sure how to feed the individual nucs. Your solution seems perfect. Thanks again and (next) winter I’ll have your frame system in service. David

    • Ann,

      You have to check of one or more of the boxes under the comment form after you leave a comment. It’s the only way I know to do it. You can put anything in the comment box you want, just a word or two to trigger it. I will know what that means.

  • Hal – you had a problem getting sugar to set up properly. I didn’t see a Rusty response but for me – like you, my first cakes did not set-up hard enough. They cracked into several pieces. Still usable, but smaller chunks. I solved the problem by building a small wooden, rectangular form. The form is divided into two spaces – so as to make two cakes having dimensions of 7.5″ X 6.5″. I made the form just over 1″ in height so cakes could easily slide into the feeder frame opening. I did what Rusty recommends which is to add just enough water to get the sugar to firm-up and harden without cooking – the mix is just moist. I lined each compartment with a piece of parchment paper and dumped in the sugar. I wanted to be sure I could get the sugar out of the form without breaking. Parchment paper worked great. To pack the sugar down into a solid piece I rolled the sugar out with a small piece of dowel. This compressed the sugar nicely. Kind of like rolling out pastry dough. The filled forms were put in our furnace room to dry. Worked perfectly. Just ease out the cakes, parchment makes this possible. Mine are hard as rocks. None have broken since.

    David Childers – have fun with another shop project. This one is going to be really useful. Winter is almost over here but still a risk of some serious cold. That said, crocuses and snow-drops are out, buds on many flowering shrubs swelling and cherry blossoms just breaking on a few city streets. Bees are still packed into two of our feeder frames with the other two being used from below. box. This past weekend I slipped in each feeder a small strip of pollen patty – something nice to do. In two feeders the bees jumped on the patties immediately. Spring is around the corner. I’ve even seen bees with heavy pollen bags heading in from the cold. Hoping in a few weeks we can say we survived winter!

  • I use three aluminum pans from a dollar store. I line the bottom with a piece of waxed paper. I pack 4 lbs of moistened sugar into the pans and set them aside to dry into hard bricks. 4 lbs of sugar makes 3 thick cakes. I find the thicker cakes don’t break as easily when being handled, and the bees have plenty of access to them from all sides. I use 2 cakes in a feeder shim for double 10 frame deeps and one for double 5 frames deeps as an emergency sugar supply over the winter. I also make a second set that I keep in a 5-gallon bucket with a lid for adding to a hive if they run short before spring. My feeding shim is a wood frame with hardware cloth on the bottom which only leaves 3/8″ bee space under it (or it can sit right on top of the frames). I set a window screen cover over that, with shredded denim over that capped with a telescoping cover containing 1.5″ of styrofoam board. The shim has two 3/8″ holes in it for moisture escape and bee entry/exit if needed, and they are small enough for them to propolize easily if they desire to seal it up. In winter I can peek down through the insulation and screen with a flashlight to check on the bee’s food and well-being. I also place a humidity and temperature Bluetooth monitor above the screen and under the insulation. This keeps the sensor clean and allows me to know if the bees are alive without cracking the hive. 100% overwintering so far.

  • I suppose if I had to pick a perfect article, it would be yours. I know no article is perfect, but yours is as close as it gets. Good job. After reading this article I get to know more about bee feeders.

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