Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bee Bread

Honey bee nutrition has been identified as an important element in bee colony health. Weather conditions, such as droughts, have brought about failures of nectar and pollen plants important as food sources for honey bees. These conditions have been observed in areas affected by Colony Collapse Disorder, and they are considered as stressors on the bees. Fortunately, we are not experiencing adverse conditions here in the Arkansas Delta which would affect nectar and pollen availability. There is an abundance of diverse plants in bloom. Having a diversity of bee plants insures that the brood will have all of the nutrients necessary for complete development. Complete nutrition, along with good genetics and successful mating, is especially important for producing high-quality queens. To develop a reproductive system capable of producing a large population in the bee colony, the queen must have good nutrition throughout her development as a larva and pupa into an adult bee as well as during the days before and after her mating flights.

If you click on today’s photo, you can see worker bees preparing bee bread to be fed to the colony’s brood. The bee bread is the substance in the cells with a wet appearance. It is composed of pollen mixed with honey. Together, this is a complete food. The honey provides carbohydrate; the pollen provides protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. From the various colors shown in the picture, we can see that the bees gathered pollen from a number of floral sources. Having a diversity of flowering plants ensures that the bees’ food will contain all necessary amino acids from the proteins in the pollen. The dark, wet cells contain honey. Some fermentation occurs in the bee bread, and this helps preserve the food. This pollen-laden frame was located immediately adjacent to the brood nest; honey bees store their pollen close to the brood. Outside the frame of pollen were frames of spring-time honey. As brood production continues, these stores will be rapidly consumed.

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