Pollen patties are used as a supplement feed source for honey bee colonies during periods of low natural pollen availability, such as during spring buildup when colonies need to ensure maximum population.
Bees need both sugar for energy needs and protein for brood rearing; when their stored pollen dwindles during early Spring or late Winter/Winter hive inspections, beekeepers may consider supplementation feeding.
How to Make Pollen Patties
Pollen patties are protein supplements designed to keep honey bees alive during times of dearth or adverse weather. When flowers that provide pollen become available again, pollen patties provide vital support and allow the bees to continue their pollination efforts.
Dearth conditions pose a danger for bees in that their pollen stores become depleted, making it hard for them to replenish before winter or during spring build up. Without enough pollen supplies available for reproduction purposes, brood production can stall or cease altogether.
Beekeepers commonly feed their colonies pollen patties during times of dearth to help ensure healthy colonies and resume normal brood-building activities. While it is debatable whether these additional feeds are necessary, many beekeepers find them useful in maintaining strong colonies during difficult conditions. To make your own supplemental pollen patties combine together these ingredients:
Instead of requiring hard-to-find ingredients for their pollen substitute recipes, this one uses easily available products found at any local store – such as soy flour, white granulated sugar, brewer’s yeast, full fat milk powder, mineral supplement and vegetable oil.
This recipe produces about 18 paddies about the size of a sheet of paper. Once made, simply wrap them individually in wax paper before placing in the freezer for long-term storage.
Under warm conditions, replacing pollen patties every 72 hours is recommended to prevent Small Hive Beetles (SHB) from laying eggs in them and creating problems for your hive. Furthermore, during Fall or Winter when natural pollen sources are available it’s a good idea not to use artificial pollen sources, as too much artificial pollen could cause collapse and/or swarming issues in hives; contact local beekeepers/apiaries for guidance regarding appropriate feeding schedules in your region.
Once prepared, pollen patties can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen for months; before being used they should be brought to room temperature by thawing out completely.
Vegetable oil plays an essential role in keeping these patties moist and flexible – an essential factor for their effectiveness. Otherwise, bees may reject them or allow them to accumulate in their hive as breeding grounds for beetle larvae.
Some beekeepers might see no need for artificial pollen patties during spring buildup period; however, in areas with limited natural pollen availability they can be an invaluable management tool. Protein contained within these patties helps boost brood production, helping the colony reach full strength before its anticipated nectar flow of the season – particularly important if making early season splits or sending their colonies off for commercial pollination services.
Beekeepers usually understand when and how to introduce carbohydrates into their hives, while protein supplementation may be less familiar. Utilizing pollen patties early in the season may accelerate brood rearing and lead to overpopulation or even swarming at the start of spring.
Scientific research has led to the creation of pollen alternatives designed to resemble natural pollen. Frame hive beekeepers typically purchase prepackaged pollen patties for feeding their colonies; top-bar hive beekeepers can now also take advantage of this research by making homemade patties themselves.
However, when placing a pollen patty in your hive, ensure it is close to hungry larvae. According to Doull’s research, nurse bee responses decline quickly with distance; likely because their ability to smell the patty is reduced and must rely solely on its sight (nurserie bee olfactory range is less than two inches – see graph). That is why placing it near bees is so critical.