Setting up a feeding station

The feeding station is the honey bee tracker’s means to establishing and maintaining beelines and is composed of two parts, a stand and foraging source. A feeding station consists of a 10 cm2 iron plate welded to a 2 m tall iron rod that is angled to a point at the bottom (Fig. 20). A 10 cm iron crosspiece is welded 0.5 m from the bottom of the station at 90º from the main rod. The crosspiece and angled bottom facilitate station insertion into hard ground. The iron plate at the top of the station has a 5 mm hole drilled through each corner. A plastic container (~ 11.5 × 17 × 4 cm, L × W × H) is affixed to a 25 cm2 wooden platform using a nail or screw through the centre of the container. The wooden plate then can be mounted to the iron stand with bolts through each of the holes on the iron plate. Less complex feeding stations can be made and other construction materials used in case sturdiness is not an issue.

  1. Construct the stand.
    The stand can be made of any material, such as wood or iron, so long as it will not be knocked over in the field. It is important that the plate of the stand sets high (~1.5-2m) so that is easily found by the foraging honey bees and the observer can easily view the beelines.
  2. Place the feeding station in an open field so that the observer can easily see beelines against the sky and they can be tracked without difficulty. It can also be placed in the sunlight, so that bees can be spotted against a dark background.
  3. Produce the bait.
    The bait can vary from scented sugar water to honey filled comb. A volume of 0.5L to 1L of a mixture of 1:3:3 honey:sugar:water (by volume) in a plastic container should be sufficient for attracting a large numbers of bees as they tend to be readily attracted to the scent and taste of honey. Scented sugar syrup, using only a few drops of ~50% anise extract per litre of solution (Seeley; pers. comm.) will attract fewer honey bees. This can be useful if one needs to reduce the number of honey bee arrivals to the feeding station in order to obtain accurate round trip times more easily (Wells and Wenner, 1971; see section
  4. Place the bait in a container on top of the plate.
  5. Place sticks and twigs in the feeding container so the bees do not drown in the liquid bait.
  6. Record the location of your feeding station on a handheld GPS (by creating a new waypoint) or map so you may find it easily in the future.
  7. Once the feeding station is baited, leave it overnight to allow the honey bees to locate the foraging source and establish their beelines. Usually, scouting foragers will locate the feeding station the morning after it is erected. Foraging bees may not find the feeding station the day it is placed in the field because they have already established foraging sources for the day.

Fig. 20. A honey bee feeding station. Arrow A points toward the container which is partially filled with bait (see photograph B at the right for a close view). Arrow B indicates the removable feeding plate. Arrow C shows the main iron rod that can be driven into the ground using the crosspiece (Arrow D). Photos: A Vaudo.