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More advanced beekeeping discussion forum.
 #9782  by Chrisbarlow
 11 Jan 2021, 17:45
I usually use ultra bee pollen substitute this time of year, however it's getting expensive, £99 for a 50lb bag.

So I'm looking at home brew recipes to see if I can get more bang for my buck...( May also be false economy).

Has anyone made any pollen substitute home brew recipes and what were your thoughts (and recipes)?

Popular ingredients include soya flour, skimmed milk powder, brewers yeast , vitamin supplements amongst other, these in themselves can be contentious to some.

What are folks thoughts?
 #9783  by Alfred
 11 Jan 2021, 18:13
Well I have a tiny cluster of victims that won't survive anyway so I do evil experiments upon them
The latest was some out of date bee pollen intended for humans,made into a patty of icing sugar.
It sets hard and so far they have had around half of it
Time will tell.
 #9784  by Chrisbarlow
 11 Jan 2021, 19:13
Alfred wrote:
11 Jan 2021, 18:13
Well I have a tiny cluster of victims that won't survive anyway so I do evil experiments upon them
The latest was some out of date bee pollen intended for humans,made into a patty of icing sugar.
It sets hard and so far they have had around half of it
Time will tell.
That might be an extremely bad idea. It's always suggested you should not feed some one else's honey or pollen to your own bees unless it's been eradiated or your 100% sure it doesn't contain any nasties like foul brood spores.
 #9785  by Patrick
 11 Jan 2021, 21:45
Every year I go through a “should I / shouldn’t I ?” dilemma regarding experimenting with pollen sub. I have managed without for many years and around here (with the arguable exception of the period 2010 to 2013), I can’t say I know I have lost bees as a result but...but..would they go into winter better/ come out of winter stronger?

There is no shortage of wild pollen but they do need to be able to fly to collect it. You may only know with hindsight they couldn’t due to prevailing weather and wet springs seem frequent.

Commercials all seem to use it but then they a) can’t afford to take chances b) probably want big colonies as early as possible c) often keep bees at high number density. Oddly they also often seem to question its advantage, which is unusual for professionals to spend money and time doing something they question the point of. Others are firm advocates.

People often seem to rate its value based on the empirical taking down of supplied patty. However, depending on the recipe it may be 75% sugar solution by weight so how often are they actually taking it down for the sugar carbohydrate content and the protein is incidental? Just a thought..

Knowing what pointless inert dusts bees will occasionally gather in pollen dearth areas, I am not sure palatability is necessarily a reliable proxy for usefulness.

That all said, I am mighty tempted to give it a go. After all, it’s not like I am rushing off anywhere..
 #9786  by Patrick
 12 Jan 2021, 09:02
Back on the subject Chris actually asked - a lot of recipes specify low fat or defatted Soy flour. Anybody know why it needs to be low fat?
 #9787  by AdamD
 12 Jan 2021, 12:26
I've used soya flour (probably not low fat) and brewers yeast in a concoction (can't recall what else at the moment) and didn't find it to be of any particular benefit with the small sample I have tried. If bees can get out and forage, they should have enough pollen in most years in most locations.
However, for the first time, I have bought some Apipasta Plus which I am going to put on some hives at the end of Feb and do a comparison with non-fed colonies. The reason being is that there's OSR nearby which will flower early and I thought I might give the bees a head-start to grow colony size. We'll see what happens.

(Randy Oliver on his Scientific Beekeeping website has some articles about feeding pollen sub, btw).
 #9788  by NigelP
 12 Jan 2021, 13:07
Worth reading Randy Oliver's work on testing various pollen substitutes ( Basically he found non were as good as real pollen, there is something lacking in all the pollen substitutes. However they were all better than bees having no protein/pollen.
However a recent paper has shown that feeding bees the proteins etc derived from a blue green algae commonly called Spirulina was even more efficacious than natural pollen. At around £17 a kilo not sure how cost effective it is though.
I've take the the step of freezing several pollen frames from last year which will be added back to the bees if we get a mild day in February. At least they will be getting the real McCoy at a time of year, when round me at least, there are no major sources of pollen available.
 #9789  by Chrisbarlow
 12 Jan 2021, 19:25
Thanks folks. I'm getting the impression that all though there are many home brew recipes out there, there ain't much experience amongst beekeepers using these recipes. Interesting comments about Spirulina.
 #9790  by NigelP
 13 Jan 2021, 09:24
There have been various reports of pollen substitutes working or not working. I know Murray McGregor thinks they are a waste of time....he only has a few 1000 hives so not an opinion to be taken lightly.
I think a lot depends on where you live and the amount of pollen available to the bees when they start rearing in spring.
I'm quite fortunate that we are in a pollen rich area with lots of pussy willow pollen etc available in spring. It's February through to March (weather depending) when there is a dearth up here
Hence my freezing frames of pollen to add back at this time. Those further South will be able to tell us when their first pollen sources become available. I know it's much earlier than up here.
 #9791  by Patrick
 13 Jan 2021, 13:45
Willow seems a reliable early source around here too.

I am informed by a neighbouring pollen microscopist that, if the bees can fly, they will gather significant mistletoe pollen from February onwards. This may be a more South and Midlands observation, as mistletoe historically seems less common going Northwards. As our climate warms, that may also change as it is potentially highly mobile.

I have also noticed mistletoe becoming seemingly more abundant on a wide variety of trees such as Poplar in recent years, so its not just the correlation with being in an orchard area (which I am). More commercially run modern orchards seem less tolerant of mistletoe but older ones often support a great amount.

As an aside, the changing drinking fashions now seem to be moving away from traditional cider and more to flavoured types, in which the required minimum 35% apple juice content is reportedly often not derived from cider varieties but bulk apple juice concentrate with added flavourings, so we are seeing traditional cider orchards starting to be grubbed up again, often to be planted up with maize which is increasingly dominating our cropped areas locally. Bit of a shame.

As you say Nigel, if they can't fly it doesn't matter what is available. I am not looking to artificially boost the colony size but by the same token I don't want them held back unduly either. Our springs down here have been consistently wet and windy in recent times. Trying to expand on empty tanks and inexorably succumbing winter bees is a double whammy. The main late spring flow will likely happen when it does anyway, regardless of the prevailing state of my colonies to utilise it. Hefting may tell you the state of carbs but not protein. Perhaps an early look at a few outer frames for pollen stores without disturbing the cluster might be informative? Ian Steppler in Manitoba is not averse to an occasional colony check in rather less than t-shirt weather.