Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Honey Bee Nutrition

Nutrition is increasingly being seen as an important issue in honey bee health. Issues of nutrition came to light with the start of Colony Collapse Disorder in the spring of 2007. Many of those who were affected had large-scale migratory operations that had been located in areas affected by drought the previous year. Honey bees are placed under greater stress from poor nutrition if there is a weather-related failure of forage crops. Bees used for migratory pollination service also are likely to experience nutritional problems while placed in mono-culture settings. The targeted agricultural crop for pollination may not provide the bees adequate amounts or nectar and pollen. A diversity of pollens is also likely to be missing in today’s large farms. Some individual pollen sources are lacking in all of the amino acids required to make a complete diet. Honey bees need an adequate amount of nectar, which is carbohydrate, to produce honey. They also need a diversity of pollen, which is protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. When they combine the honey and pollen, they have a complete diet necessary for producing healthy brood. Good nutrition is especially important when the colony begins producing new queens. The quality of queens is determined by the genetics, mating, and nutrition.

To address the nutrition needs of honey bees, some beekeepers are adopting more frequent supplemental feeding. Traditional patterns of feeding bees involved fall feeding of a heavy sugar syrup to build up winter stores and spring feeding of a thinner sugar syrup to stimulate nectar gathering. To meet nutritional requirements, some beekeepers are adding feedings of pollen substitutes and sugar syrup at various times of the year. Feeding during periods of dearth is sometimes required to keep queen bees of certain stocks from stopping brood production. This occurs with Russian bees and some of the other stocks of eastern European origin. Stopping brood production evolved as a reproductive strategy for survival in harsh climates. Today’s picture shows honey bees chewing pollen substitute.


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