A beehive with a supplement patty
(brown) and a medicated grease patty (pink) on top bars
Like all other organisms, honey bees require a variety of nutrients to prosper. Although honey provides the simple carbohydrates necessary to generate warmth and to fuel flight, many more compounds and minerals are necessary for proper development of young bees from egg to adult and to maintain optimal health and vigour through adult life.
Under ideal conditions, bees will get the necessary nutrients in abundance through pollen collection and will maintain a store of natural pollen in their combs for times when none is available. However, under modern management, bees are kept in areas where they would not naturally do well. Further, even in good bee areas and in good years, some hives may not have sufficient populations to forage effectively, others may be weakened by viruses or nosema, pesticides or other factors may intervene to prevent full and proper nutrition.
Bees can handle a great deal of adversity, however in order to get the best performance, whether the goal is to produce more bees, more honey or better pollination of crops, the beekeeper must ensure that the bees never go hungry for honey or pollen. Good nutrition goes a long way to fending off diseases, winter loss, and 'mysterious' dwindling.
The major essential nutrient provided by the patties described here is protein, although other essential nutrients ride along in the mix. It is apparently possible to make patties that entirely replace natural pollen for periods of time, but that is not the goal here. The intent of these patties is to supplement natural pollen and for that purpose they work very well. Long periods (more than several weeks) of feeding these patties without natural pollen being available, however, may result in stress on colonies and the very decline that we attempt to avoid.
BeeProŽ, a product of Mann Lake claims to be a pollen substitute, not supplement. A true substitute is a balanced bee diet with more nutrients than simple yeast/soy patties and which can be fed at length in place of pollen, and which will sustain brood rearing without significant increased adult mortality. However the exact detailed nutritional composition of BeePro is not revealed, nor guaranteed as far as I know. At time of writing we are not aware of independent tests that prove superiority of BeePro over the yeast/soy patties many beekeepers make using a simple and inexpensive combination of soy flour and a high protein brewers yeast. We have used BeePro and find it works well as a supplement. We have not tested it a a substitute.
When making patties using yeast and soy:
When feeding supplement patties, several factors are important for acceptance by the bees and minimum wastage:
The hive must be queenright
The patties must be within several inches of the brood
Either a high sugar content (50%+) or a high natural pollen content (15%+) is necessary to ensure the bees consume the mixture, and to minimize waste.
At feeding time, if the mixture was a little sticky when making the patties and enough soy flour was not dusted onto the paper, the paper is sometimes well stuck to the patty. In that case, we simply slit the paper in several places to give the bees access and place the patty with the slits down immediately over the brood area (See picture at top).
Further resources: The Hive and the Honeybee Chapter 6, starting on page 197 is essential reading. There are many other good texts as well, and the logs of BEE-L, the internet discussion group for bees. contain useful and enlightening comments by practical beekeepers on the subject.
And, Finally, here's what the OLd Drone had to say in a post to BEE-L...
Last Revision: February 25, 2014 11:11 AM