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  1. #1
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default rethinking bee nutrition

    i have mentioned in several posts that i was convinced that bees feeding on real honey would have a much better chance of staying healthy as compared to those feeding on syrup.

    my thinking was that they would be getting the vital nutrients in real honey (not present in syrup) that are necessary for their immune systems to function optimally.

    now i'm not so sure about that.

    after revisiting randy oliver's papers on bee nutrition, i have come to understand that those vital nutrients for longevity and immunity come primarily from pollen.

    oliver does a better job than i ever could explaining what vitellogenin is and the role it plays in bee health and wintering longevity:

    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/fat-bees-part-1/ (this is part one of a four part series)

    i believe i have found a likely explanation as to why i had 5 of 18 hives suffer queen failure over this past winter. it may be that the natural forage that was available here late last year didn't have quite enough nutritional quality.

    this may explain why those who supplement with protein patties in the fall are having better wintering success.

    this brings me to think like it's not bad to 'top off' or 'bring up to wintering weight' using syrup late in the year, fearing that the bees will have less immunity to pathogens if they are using some stored syrup for fuel.

    i have been putting a little dry pollen substitute out in the late winter for the bees to add to the natural pollen that they bring in. it may be a good idea for me to put some of that out in late summer as well to augment the natural flow as they get into rearing those last rounds of bees for overwintering.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  2. #2
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Well I do a lot of feeding and I, in fact, have quite a few hives that have derived as much as 90% of their carbohydrates from corn syrup since last fall. My take is that, yeah, it does the job but there is a cost in "wear and tear" on the bees to constantly cleaning out feeders. In addition to be most effective it has to be fed early enough in the fall so that the bees have a chance to properly cure it and orient it in the hive. I think for those reasons alone that bees will winter a bit better on most honeys though with different honeys (such as those that granulate rock hard) you may see different results.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  3. #3
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    Dec 2006
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    Amador County, Calif
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    i have come to understand that those vital nutrients for longevity and immunity come primarily from pollen.

    this may explain why those who supplement with protein patties in the fall are having better wintering success.
    SP, your killing me. lol
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  4. #4
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    Mar 2012
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    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Also, just a note, don't forget that there actually IS an amount (however small) of pollen in the honey; not to mention of honey in the bee's stored pollen (bee bread). So, in a "natural" setting, what they get from either of honey/pollen, they get from both, just in different concentrations.

    That said, if a hive is hungry, feed them! Better to have a slightly weaker immune system than die of starvation.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    according to the article the really good stuff that promotes immunity and longevity (vitellogenin) is stored within the bees themselves, and it takes a long time to build up those stores.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #6
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    jim, are you using patties in the fall? and if so, about when do you put them on?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  7. #7
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    Feb 2006
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    Herrick, SD USA
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    jim, are you using patties in the fall? and if so, about when do you put them on?
    No, tried it once but decided it was counter productive to the brood break that we like to get plus had some issues with shb. If you really want to build big hives, though, fall is the time to be pushing the sub to them. Two different approaches for sure, in recent years we have been getting 2/3rds to 3/4ths of our bees to grade out for almond pollination and thats good enough for me. Many "California guys" like Keith are no doubt doing better than 100% with a good sub program but probably have to work a little harder on mite control. I know one excellant northern beekeeper that got about 110% of his fall numbers to grade out last year.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Marshall county, AL
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    792

    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    So after reading that article.......newbee question here, would it be beneficial if you trap pollen during the spring and feed it to the hive late autumn to boost winter survival rates?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    understood, many thanks jim.

    we have a bimodal flow here. the big one from late winter through early summer, and the smaller one from late summer into fall.

    i thought i was doing alright by leaving enough honey to get them through the summer nectar dearth, but i hadn't given much thought to the fact that there is a pollen dearth as well.

    the fall forage isn't multifloral as the spring forage, with almost all of the pollen that i see being brought in from goldenrod. i am wondering if it would help to supplement through the summer with a well rounded source of amino acids in order to get them strong with vitellogenin in preparation for the fall brood up of the long-lived overwintering bees,

    especially since i am not treating for mites, and the bees are relying on natural immunity for the viruses.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #10
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Bee View Post
    So after reading that article.......newbee question here, would it be beneficial if you trap pollen during the spring and feed it to the hive late autumn to boost winter survival rates?
    good thought brad. i think the problem oliver mentions with that is that it pollen loses its freshness quickly unless you ferment it or something like that.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  11. #11
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    Mar 2012
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    Calhoun Co, Texas, USA
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    ...pollen loses its freshness quickly unless you ferment it or something like that.
    Exactly what I've heard/found. While "bee bread" pollen may last nearly indefinitely, "fresh" pollen right from the girls' legs doesn't seem to store well at all; maybe if you deep-froze it though.....idk

  12. #12
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    Dec 2006
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    Amador County, Calif
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Feeding back pollen is the fastest way to spread unwanted pest, the best way is to find a good pollen supplement.
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  13. #13
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Jarrett View Post
    Feeding back pollen is the fastest way to spread unwanted pest, the best way is to find a good pollen supplement.
    what do you recommend for the hobbiest with just a few hives keith?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  14. #14
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    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Not to cut in on your business, Kieth, but my answer is "none of the above."
    From 2000 to 2005, we applied the pollen box maneuver in the spring build up period. We got reliable wintering - almost guarenteed. Simple procedure - when the first shallow above the single deep was basically filled with expansion brood, it was placed below the deep. In the buildup, when pollen is plentiful, the brood in that now bottom shallow is or was reliably backfilled with beebread (long-term pollen).

    Beebread at the bottom is sacred until Aug. - when it's used to start fall expansion to rear wintering bees. With that beebread available at the end of our midsummer doldrums, wintering was much improved. Went from 25% weaklings in late winter to ALL fairly equal in strength in Feb. This was a late addition to my full-season mngt. We didn't see the natural tendency to store the "pollen reserve" below the brood until we went to the unlimited broodnest of checkerboarding. It's stored during buildup, while the cluster is growing upward.

    We believe it is standard procedure in the cylindrical tree hollow. Come late summer, the brood nest grows downward into the pollen reserve. Serves 2 purposes: Starts fall buildup for wintering bees and relocates the broodnest in the bottom, where they want it. Seems rather awkward to me to go the expense and work of doing it a different way when the bees have a format to make it happen their way.

    I get too much static when I talk about their preference for brood in a deep when the alternative is a shallow, Or their reluctance to jump the gap in comb at box joints, but both those observations play into my application of the pollen box maneuver. It WORKS.
    No protein feeding.

    Walt

  15. #15
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    Jul 2006
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    Worcester County, Massachusetts
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    what do you recommend for the hobbiest with just a few hives keith?
    ...I think the answer is 'a pallet of nutribee' :

    deknow
    The perils of benefactors; The blessings of parasites; Blindness blindness and sight -Joni Mitchell 'Shadows and Light'

  16. #16
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    good point walt. i'll have to see what the status is in my first supers and consider making that move. thanks!
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  17. #17
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    I guess essentially what Walt is recommending is that a brood nest reversal in early summer will result in a better wintering cluster. Are you suggesting this results in more pollen being brought into the hive or just a better orientation of it?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  18. #18
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    May 2011
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    Nashville, TN
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Whatever your means of supplementation, there have been several scientific studies done that have concluded that adding probiotics to pollen supplement or syrup increases fat body weight and improves brood health and longevity:

    http://ibra.live.subhub.com/articles/20080612_84

    "Two probiotics, Biogen-N and Trilac, were used as supplements to pollen substitute in feeding honey bees. The probiotics were given either throughout the entire 14-day experiment or only for 2 days, just after bee emergence. The midgut of worker bees was colonized by bacteria present in probiotics, including Lactobacillus spp., Pediococcus acidilactici, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Enterococcus faecium. Advantages of probiotic supplementation include better bee survival and higher dry mass and crude fat level in comparison with bees fed with pollen substitute only. We did not observe significant differences in total protein in the dry mass of bees. There was no correlation between the duration of feeding with probiotics and the chemical composition of the bees. This suggests that to achieve an increase in dry mass and crude fat level, it is sufficient to supply probiotics only in the beginning of the feeding period, directly after bee emergence."

    and:

    http://www.jas.org.pl/jas_50_1_2006_2.pdf

    "Probiotics added to the substitute were also found to stimulate the growth of fat body. In bees which
    received the “pure” substitute the fat body was developed to the least extent and probiotics addition had a statistically significant effect on its better development. . . The probiotic preparations applied in the
    study failed to significantly contribute to the increase in feed intake, but affected the decrease in death rate of bees.
    Based on the results obtained in this study it can be concluded that the controlled administration of probiotic preparations, containing specified and properly-selected species and strains of lactic acid-producing bacteria, in the pollen substitute affects better feed protein utilization by the body of bee. . ."

    and:

    http://lib.bioinfo.pl/pmid:22459313

    "Maintaining bee colonies in a healthy state throughout the year is one of the main concerns of apiculture researchers. The phenomenon of disappearance of bee colonies is determined by several factors, one of which is bee disease. Due to the organizational structure of the bee colony, disease transmission is rapid, especially through infected food or via the nurse worker bees that feed the brood bees of the colony concerned. The practice of stimulating the bee colonies in spring using sugar syrup feeds with added prebiotic products (lactic acid or acetic acid) and probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-14 and Bifidobacterium lactis BI-04) by using an Enterobiotic product (Lactobacillus casei), marketed as Enterolactis Plus, for three weeks, resulted in a significant reduction of the total number of bacteria in the digestive tracts of the bees, compared with the control group. By contrast, intestinal colonization with beneficial bacteria contained in probiotics products administered to the bees was observed. This resulted in an improved health status and bio productive index of the bee colonies studied."

  19. #19
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    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    Hey thanks for starting the thread Squarepeg, very interesting so far!

    Based on what's being said, poor wintering may be a lot more to do with pollen malnutrition than a lot of us have realised. Some of the other things that have caught the blame may be more easily dealt with by the bees if they are fully nourished.

    Something I've been pondering on lately, is that because a bee receives the bulk of this nutrition while it is a larva, getting sucked on by a varroa mite family while it is pupating is going to deplete it and make it a weaker bee for life. Another one of the insidious evils of these little nasty's, over and above the viruses they transmit.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    fresno CA USA
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    125

    Default Re: rethinking bee nutrition

    We trap a little pollen in the spring ( collecting olive (old world plant) and a little wild flower now) it goes from the trap to the pollen cleaner then to the deep freeze. I only use pollen I collect and use the it in the same year, it degrades rapidly. Getting ready to start feeding a protein supplement and a little syrup blend with EO's this week it's going to be a long dry summer in CA.

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