When to Feed Bees Pollen Patties

Feeding bees pollen patties is an essential practice in beekeeping that helps support the health and longevity of a colony. Pollen patties provide bees with the necessary proteins and nutrients when natural pollen sources are scarce. Knowing the correct time to feed your bees pollen patties can help maintain a strong and thriving colony.

One of the best times to feed pollen patties to bees is during early spring, as it offers supplemental nutrients before the first natural pollen becomes available. It helps boost brood production and supports the overall health of the hive. It is crucial for beekeepers to regularly inspect their hives to determine when their bees may require additional nourishment.

By understanding the colony’s natural cycle and regularly monitoring your hives, you can provide pollen patties when they are needed most and support the well-being of your bees.

The Importance of Pollen Patties

Pollen patties provide an essential source of protein for bees, particularly when pollen is scarce. Protein is crucial for the development of brood. Nurse bees need the protein in pollen or pollen substitutes to enable their glands to secrete royal jelly. Thus, supplementing colonies with pollen patties, when nature is lacking, is critical for supporting a strong and growing population.

Feeding pollen patties is particularly beneficial when preparing for nucs or splits as it helps colonies increase their brood production in preparation for the upcoming season. Further, supplementing with protein also aids in the overall health of the bee colony.

Here are some key points to consider when feeding pollen patties to your bees:

  • Feed during pollen dearth at times of the year when there should be pollen, especially in early spring
  • Consider providing supplemental pollen 3 weeks before the first natural pollen becomes available when planning nucs or splits
  • Be mindful that bees do not need pollen patties all the time, as they only require them to feed their larvae

When to Feed Bees Pollen Patties

Pollen patties are only useful to a colony at specific times in their cycle. Let’s explore when the bees can best benefit from these supplemental feeds.

Seasonal Feeding

At the beginning of spring, natural pollen sources may not yet be available., Thus the patties can help support the colony’s growth. Some beekeepers begin feeding in late February or early March, depending on the local climate and beekeeping practices.

Colony Strength and Health

A weaker colony, especially after a long and harsh winter, may require pollen patties earlier in the season to help them regain strength and build up their population. On the other hand, a strong colony may not need supplemental food at all, depending on the availability of natural pollen sources.

Environmental Factors

Lastly, environmental factors play a role in determining when to feed pollen patties. Factors such as weather conditions and local flora can affect the availability of natural pollen sources. In some regions, droughts, heavy rain, or cold snaps can cause a delay in the availability of natural pollen, making it necessary to provide pollen patties to the bees in the meantime.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, it’s essential for beekeepers to carefully assess their colony’s circumstances and monitor their colonies’ health to provide timely and appropriate supplemental feeding through pollen patties.

How to Make Pollen Patties

The process of making these nutritious patties is straightforward. This section will provide you with the necessary ingredients and preparation steps to make them.


The main components required for making pollen patties are as follows:

  • Pollen substitute (1 cup per hive)
  • Sugar syrup

For every hive, add approximately 1 cup of pollen substitute.


Follow these simple steps to make pollen patties:

  1. Pour the pollen substitute into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add just enough sugar syrup to the bowl to achieve a consistency similar to cookie dough.
  3. Mix the two ingredients thoroughly until well combined.
  4. Divide the mixture into smaller portions, one for each hive.
  5. Form each portion into flat, rectangular patties.
  6. Place each patty on wax paper for storage, or immediately place it on top of the frames within the beehive for feeding.

Feeding Techniques and Tips

Feeding bees pollen patties help promote brood production and support colony growth. Understanding proper placement and selecting the right amount is crucial for successful feeding.

Placement in the Hive

Place the patty directly on the top bars above the bee cluster, preferably above the brood area. This ensures that nurse bees can easily feed the developing larvae the nutritious pollen patty mixture.

Amount to Feed

The amount of pollen patty fed to bees can vary, and it’s important to monitor colony consumption and adjust feeding as needed. As a rule of thumb, start with a small piece of patty, about the size of a deck of cards. Observe how quickly the bees consume it and adjust the amount accordingly. Since the bees will not store the patty, providing too much can be wasteful. An uneaten patty can become moldy and potentially harmful to the colony. 

The rapid consumption of pollen patties may indicate a high demand for protein in the colony, suggesting a potential nectar or pollen dearth in the area. In such cases, it may be necessary to adjust feeding practices and provide additional resources, such as sugar syrup, to support the colony’s growth and well-being.

Potential Risks and Cautions

When feeding bees pollen patties, it’s crucial to be aware of potential risks such as pest and disease attraction and exercise caution to avoid causing harm to the colony. 

Pest and Disease Attraction

One concern when feeding pollen patties to bees is the increased risk of attracting pests and spreading disease. Pollen patties can attract unwanted pests like small hive beetles that may cause significant harm to the hive. Additionally, there’s a chance of diseases spreading with dry pollen feeding.


Another issue is overfeeding the bees with pollen patties. As stated in the article from American Bee Journal, feeding pollen or pollen substitutes in the fall might not be as useful as one might think. 

Providing a continuous supply of pollen patties is only necessary when nature cannot provide it. Let the colony’s natural behavior be your guide to avoid feeding patties when the colony is preparing for winter. Natural pollen is often superior in nutritional quality, therefore ensure the bees have access to natural pollen when it becomes available. 

Overfeeding can lead to wasted resources and an imbalance in the hive, potentially causing more harm than good. 


Feeding pollen patties to bees can be beneficial, especially during pollen dearths. The ideal time to feed pollen patties is in early spring, right before the nectar flow. Be sure to maintain a continuous supply until natural pollen becomes available for the honey bees).

In areas with harsh winters, such as Michigan, it’s recommended to feed pollen or its substitutes around mid-February to early March. This supports brood production and prepares colonies for splitting (MSU Pollinators).

Monitoring colony health and adjusting feeding strategies can help ensure a thriving, productive bee population.

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