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General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #5136  by Alfred
 03 Nov 2019, 10:23
I'm reading contradictory advice from beekeepers (really??) regarding administering pollen substitution.
What's the forums opinion?
The last bbka journal had an expert saying it has no proven value and elsewhere I've seen advice that because of the last two weeks being a washout there's no ivy pollen left (my lot don't seem to have noticed) and it should be fed in spring.
 #5137  by AdamD
 03 Nov 2019, 16:22
I did try making a pollen substitute a while back and put it in spring. I didn't notice any improvement in that colony. eventually I saw the plastic bag the sub was in, being removed from the front entrance. Quite a task to pull it through the comb and out of the front.
For me, my view is that if the bees need a substitute, they they need moving to a better apiary as they should get enough pollen by themselves. However others do feed it - and if there is a period of bad weather in spring one year, bees may stop brooding for a while until they can get out again. I've seen this, but bees usually seem to make up for lost (brooding) time soon enough.
 #5138  by NigelP
 03 Nov 2019, 19:23
You need to first find out if you keep bees in a natural pollen rich environment or a pollen poor environment.
Mine are fine, lots of early spring pollen.
Mate of mine on the Wolds isn't and finds pollen patties help.
Randy Oliver conducted some experiments and found most worked (in his tests those not fed patties starved...) but very variable....he reckoned something was missing from the substitutes so is testings his own formulae.
 #5139  by Patrick
 03 Nov 2019, 20:43
It’s always been known bees will, in the absence of flower pollen, collect all manner of powders including brick dust, rust spores etc. That doesn’t mean it does them any good. Similarly, patties of assorted mush may be put on and disappear over time but whether that is always beneficially consumed and becomes more healthier bees is often less proven.

Historically, in the UK the wide seasonal variety of naturally occurring trees and plants And crops I suspect made feeding supplements unnecessary. Whether that is still true today is a more moot point. As Donald Sims observed in “Sixty Years with Bees” areas such as Foxton where he lived (once known able to support a host of colonies) by the time he moved there were barely able to support even a few garden hives.

This replicates in miniature the situation I understand with some huge commercial operations such as in the US, where literallly thousands of colonies are kept alive and built up for mass pollination contracts on syrup and sub. for significant periods of the year. Interestingly Sims used sub patties. I suspect it is this sector that provides the bulk market for commercial sub products and pays for the advertising accordingly. Randy Oliver’s study was obviously interesting but as I remember it, it was deliberately carried out at a time of year and in a location where natural pollen was known to be either absent or inadequate. Despite applying many kg of patties, when natural pollen (from Alder) become available the upturn in colonies was universal.

As a hobbyist I agree with Nigel’s point that if your bees are located in an inadequate forage area - common sense says move them. In practice this may not mean miles away - anybody looking at pollen loads has probably noticed bees can be surprisingly local in their pollen foraging preferences. A few hundred metres may apparently help.

The only other big issue is weather. All the pollen in the world is no use if they can’t access it due to excessive cold, wet or wind. Hence I might be as concerned at the prospect of a wet summer to need to feed pollen, rather than just the syrup commonly suggested if stores are low. To date, this has only been in hindsight, so not much use to the bees.

We all have a commendable wish to ensure our hives flourish, but to date I have done okay with not using subs. However I do know I am very fortunate to have a good succession throughout the year of natural and cultivated pollen sources very locally. Not to say they might have done better if I had done differently, as with so much else!
 #5154  by Alfred
 06 Nov 2019, 14:32
Next year my lot will have 1/2 an acre of borage extra,plus 100 sqm of blue cornflower, another 70 sqm of yellow rattle,100 ft of new hawthorn hedging due to mature, plus 2570 spring bulbs- if they sprout
I think I'll make plain fondant then treat them t o a ration of candipoline in spring if they survive.The polynuc colony will need something around xmas I think.
My cedar based colony is STILL taking syrup this morning so I left the feeder on for them to clear the dreggs.