Pollen patties may help increase brood production while at the same time protecting bee colonies from starvation or nectar shortage.
Patties are typically composed of dry pollen substitute and sugar syrup, and can either be purchased ready-to-use or homemade using an easy recipe. Feeding patties to hives also reduces robbing risk by drawing SHB away from its feeder.
Time of Year
Commercial beekeepers use pollen patties as protein supplements when natural sources become limited, but these amber-colored supplements should not serve as replacements for feeding your colonies with adequate forage.
Pollen substitutes should be fed early spring, when floral sources start emerging, in order to facilitate brood production and build the bee population for the year ahead. This helps increase brood production while strengthening bee colonies for their annual survival.
Before making your decisions, it is important to carefully consider your environment and hive needs when making these choices. For instance, giving bees pollen patties in fall could spark robbing behavior from other colonies if overfed.
Winter patties contain low protein concentration and should only be introduced once temperatures allow the beehive to open its entrance. Winter patties help stop queen bees from rearing young too soon and are especially useful in areas that experience long, harsh winters.
Type of Pollen
Pollen is the male fertilizing agent of flowering plants, trees and grasses; it also contributes to allergic reactions in humans and animals alike.
Bees require various sources of protein in order to increase brood production and survive summer dearth conditions. Commercial beekeepers employ pollen patties as sources of nutrition; backyard beekeepers may use homemade mixtures of sugar syrup and brewer’s yeast in lieu of pollen patties for similar results.
Pollen patties contain all of the proteins necessary for honey bees to build brood and feed young larvae, and are easier for bees to consume than dry pollen. Beekeepers can mix and match pollen patties to different areas of their hives as larger patties tend to be consumed faster. Wijayati et al. conducted a study comparing consumption and effects of two commercially available pollen substitute diets on Carniolan and Italian hybrid honey bee colony performance during dearth periods – significantly greater consumption was seen among colonies fed large size patties.
Pollen is an essential source of sustenance for honeybees, and they must produce sufficient to support their populations during periods of dearth. Supplementing natural pollen sources with protein supplements may aid brood production but must be designed so as not to attract Small Hive Beetles (SHBs).
Pre-made patties can be an ideal way to feed pollen substitute and sugar to bees in an easy and cost-effective manner. Made with lemon juice or citric acid, vitamin powder, dried egg, yeast and oil – making it simple and straightforward – pre-made patties make life easy for beekeepers!
Be wary when feeding patties during summer dearth as doing so may trigger a queen supercedure. Poorly fed nurse bees may mate more readily with drones, creating an offspring without enough resources for maintaining or building comb. This increases population stress levels, making more susceptible to swarming. Regular hive inspections will help determine whether or not patties need to be fed.
Feeding pollen patties to bees during summer will assist them in their preparations for winter. This should be part of their natural seasonal cycle; supplementation may only become necessary due to drought or other long-term weather conditions that create a dearth of pollen sources.
Patties may not contain real pollen, but they provide all of the protein honey bees need for survival and can even help prevent robbing by distracting robber bees away from your colonies.
At our summer feeding trial, we fed beehives a variety of diets during a nectar dearth. Hives that received patties with roasted winged beans had much improved colony performance than those who received other types of patties; with only one exception. This discovery will warrant further study; meantime, check your hives regularly and only add patties when necessary – you can always add more when nectar flows resume in late Fall!