Everything You Need to Know About Pollen Patties!
By: Blake Shook
Last month I talked about “Why Feed Pollen Patties” – This month I want to get a little more in-depth on how much and when to feed patties as well as address some questions you have raised pertaining to consumption and storage.
How much & when to feed pollen patties depends on the time of year, and the strength of the hive. You want to feed only as much as the bees can fully consume in a 7–10-day period to ensure Small Hive Beetles don’t begin using it as a breeding ground. In essence, making sure the bees fully consume the patty between feedings, stopping any worry of propagating SHB.
A hive which has about 1 deep box full of bees should eat a 1 lb patty in about 7 days. A hive with 2 boxes full of bees can eat 2 patties in 7-10 days. Alternatively, for a box that’s only half full of bees, tear the patty in half and give them a half pound. In areas where SHB’s are more prevalent, you may need to reduce the size even more; thus, cutting the patty in strips about the size of bacon and replenish as needed.
A general rule of thumb is that if you don’t see at least a half of a deep frame worth of stored pollen in the hive, it’s ideal to feed pollen substitute until they begin bringing in and storing more pollen.
My bees aren’t eating their patty
There are a few key reasons your bees may not be eating their pollen patty or eating it very slowly.
- Dry patties - they should be pliable, and the consistency of peanut butter. If they are a bit too hard, you can quickly dip them in water, and put back on your hive. If they are hard, or very dry, it is best to discard the patty and give the hive a smaller amount next time.
- Weak bees - if your hive is weak (significantly less than 1 deep box full of bees) then they may not be able to eat as much pollen sub as you gave them. Try only giving them ⅓-½ a pound per feeding.
- Outdoor temperatures are too cold - once daytime temperatures are consistently in the 50's or below, bees will begin clustering and slowing down their consumption.
- Bees can’t access the patty - bees need ample access to patties to be able to consume it. See last months article on placement of patties.
- Homemade patties - depending on the recipe you used, bees simply may not want to eat the patty.
Storing Pollen Patties
If you end up with extra pollen patties, they can be frozen and reused next year. It will reduce the nutritional value a bit, but not enough to prevent re-use.
Short term storage (a month or two):
- Wrap them in plastic wrap or seal them in a zip lock bag
- Store at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
The key is to help them retain their moisture. It’s critical they stay as moist and pliable as possible to ensure the bees eat them quickly. A peanut butter consistency is the goal. If they become hard,as mentioned, you can quickly dip the patty in water and then feed it to your bees.
Homemade vs Purchased Pollen Substitutes
This answer can be short and sweet- don’t try to make your own pollen substitute. There is a huge difference in homemade recipes and purchased pollen sub. Typical homemade recipes call for things like soy flour, brewer’s yeast, etc. It has been shown those ingredients have very little to no nutritional value for bees. Purchased subs have come a very long way nutritionally in the past 10 years and are carefully created with ingredients not readily available.