Monday, March 1, 2010

Feeding Pollen

Recent years have highlighted the need for good nutrition in the bee hive. Supplemental feeding of heavy syrup in the fall was often done to provide extra stores of food for the winter. A feeding of light syrup in the spring was used to stimulate foraging to support the build-up of the honey bee population prior to the major nectar flows. Now, there is considerable interest in providing a more complete diet to the honey bee colony throughout the year. Not only are beekeepers feeding carbohydrate syrups to supplement nectar, they are feeding pollen substitutes to provide proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. When honey bees have available honey and pollen from a diverse array of plants, they have complete nutrition. Mono-culture agricultural practices, migratory pollination work, the clean-up of weedy areas, and adverse weather may each lead to nutritional stress on the bees.

Feeding pollen to bees in the fall helps insure that the young bees will have fully-developed glands necessary for them to make the brood food needed in the late winter and early spring. The queen is stimulated to start laying eggs when the workers bring pollen into the hive. For this reason I like to place some dry pollen substitute in a feeding station in the bee yard where I will be raising queens. Supplemental feeding of pollen can also be done inside the hive by making patties of pollen substitute and syrup. These patties are useful for feeding the brood during build-up. They should be placed directly above the brood nest. If the patties are not consumed rapidly by the honey bees, small hive beetles are attracted to their protein. The picture shows a simple arrangement for feeding dry pollen substitute. A pet feeder is placed inside a five gallon pail, which is open toward the east. The feed is pollen substitute mixed with natural pollen that I trapped and froze last summer. Some powdered sugar is added as well. Bees love this mix.

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