Pollen patties are a popular bee food supplement that provides bees with essential nutrients, especially protein, before pollen is available in nature. They are made by combining pollen, sugar, and other ingredients mixed to form a patty. These patties are placed on top of the hive frames, where the bees can access them easily.
Pollen patties stimulate the colony to produce more brood in anticipation of spring. If one isn’t observant, overfeeding bees can lead to a population problem in the hive. If the queen picks up the pace and starts laying too many eggs too soon, the colony could swell prematurely and run out of food.
In that case, it would seem counter-intuitive to feed them until spring is in full swing, wouldn’t it? We answer that question in the next section.
Why Feed Pollen Patties in Winter
Research has shown that colonies fed with pollen patties in the fall and winter have a higher survival rate than those that are not fed. A study conducted by the University of Georgia found that colonies fed with pollen patties in the fall had higher brood production and stronger colonies in the spring.
It’s important to note that feeding pollen patties in the fall is different from feeding them in the spring or summer. In the fall, the goal is to provide the bees with enough protein to survive the winter, whereas in the spring and summer, the goal is to stimulate brood production and colony growth.
When to Feed Patties in Winter
According to PerfectBee, winter patties, which have low protein content compared to typical pollen patties, are generally recommended for use in the fall and winter months, while pollen patties are best used in early spring. However, if emergency feeding is necessary, pollen patties can also be used in the winter.
Feeding bees pollen patties in the winter can stimulate brood rearing, which will increase the colony’s size. While this may sound like a good thing, it can be detrimental to the colony if there isn’t enough food to sustain the increased population.
If the colony is small and struggling, emergency feeding may be necessary. However, if the colony is healthy and has enough food stores to last through the winter, feeding pollen patties may do more harm than good.
How to Feed Pollen Patties in Winter
Preparing the Patties
- Choose a high-quality pollen patty that is specifically designed for winter feeding.
- Follow the instructions on the package for mixing the pollen patty with sugar syrup or water. The consistency should be similar to cookie dough.
- Form the mixture into small patties, about the size of a hockey puck. Ensure they are not too large or heavy for the bees to move around. Research has shown that the surface area of the pollen patties can affect their consumption by honey bee colonies. Patties with a greater surface area are more readily consumed by honey bee colonies and may contribute more to colony development and honey yields.
- Place the patties on a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap and let them dry for a few hours before feeding.
Placing the Patties in the Hive
- Remove the outer cover of the hive and place a sheet of wax paper or newspaper on top of the frames. This will help prevent the bees from getting stuck in the patty.
- Place the pollen patty on top of the wax paper or newspaper above the cluster of bees.
- Replace the outer cover of the hive and make sure it is securely in place.
- Check the hive periodically to make sure the bees are consuming the pollen patty. If they are not, you may need to adjust the placement or size of the patty.
What Are the Benefits of Feeding Pollen Patties in Winter?
- Helps maintain brood production: Bees need protein to produce brood, and pollen patties are a great source of protein. By providing your bees with pollen patties, you can help ensure that they care for the little brood present throughout the winter.
- Increases colony strength: A strong colony is better able to survive the winter. By feeding your bees pollen patties, you can help increase their strength and resilience.
- Boosts immune system: Pollen contains essential vitamins and minerals that can help boost your bees’ immune system. By feeding your bees pollen patties, you can help keep them healthy and disease-free.
Overall, feeding pollen patties to bees in winter is a simple and effective way to support your colony’s health and well-being. By providing your bees with the nutrition they need, you can help ensure that they emerge from winter strong and ready for the coming spring.
Are There Risks to Feeding Bees Pollen Patties?
There’s always a risk whenever we interfere with the natural order of things, so let’s look at the downsides of feeding pollen patties to your bees in the winter.
Pollen patties are high in protein, which stimulates brood production. However, if the colony is fed too much, it may end up producing more brood than it can support. This can lead to starvation of the colony, which often happens just as spring begins.
Monitoring the colony’s food consumption and adjusting the feeding schedule accordingly is important.
Pollen patties can cause bees to get dysentery. Even though this isn’t fatal for the bees, it’s messy and probably very unpleasant for them. Pollen patties may contain indigestible binding agents, which may cause the bees to repeatedly empty their tiny little bowels, either in the hive or right at the entrance. Without the extra roughage, the bees can usually wait to take a cleansing flight and relieve themselves a good distance from the hive.
Pollen patties can become contaminated if they are not stored properly. Moisture can lead to mold growth, which can be harmful to the bees. Beekeepers should store the patties in a cool, dry place and only feed fresh patties to the colony.
Additionally, beekeepers should be cautious when purchasing pollen patties from suppliers. They should ensure that the patties are free from contaminants and are made from high-quality ingredients.
You Can Feed Bees Patties in Winter, but Should You?
Feeding pollen patties to bees in winter is a common practice among beekeepers. The patties provide bees with a balanced diet, which can help them better withstand mites and other environmental stressors. However, it is important to note that not all colonies may require pollen patties. Beekeepers should assess the availability of natural pollen resources in their area before deciding to feed their bees with pollen patties.
It’s important to follow the recommended feeding guidelines when feeding pollen patties to bees. Overfeeding can lead to excess brood production, which can result in overcrowding and starvation. Conversely, underfeeding can lead to weak colonies and low productivity in the honey department.