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  1. #1
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    Default Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Im looking for information on exactly what the nutritional needs are for honeybees. What exactly is a balanced amino acid profile for a bee look like? HOw much fat and protien is required in their diet, nutrients, micro nutrients and so on.

    I want a list of dietary requirements so that when I get a pollen analyses done I can compare what is coming into the hive to what is needed by the bees, and perhaps supplement some of their dietary requirements if needed, or if possible.

    I know lots of beekeepers have a great handle on nutrition and supplemental feeding. I just starting down that road of better understanding bee nutrition
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  2. #2
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    I suspect that you might not get a concise answer to your question.

    Here are two references to learn more though:
    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/poll...ement-formula/
    - and -
    http://www.beeccdcap.uga.edu/documen...Article10.html

    You may see references to studies by DeGroot (at least one of those was 1953), so far I haven't seen that study available online, but it is worth looking for.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  3. #3
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    oh some good stuff there guys! Thanks for providing those links to me.

    Radar, I agree that there will be no clear answer to that question. Diet is all a matter of interpretation.
    But at least there should be a basic list of requirements, to which Im going to gather from the links you two provided.
    In the cattle business we have an animal nutritionist that helps build our feeding program. We are able to target nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are lacking in the cattle feed we grow year after year to provide them with an well balanced diet. This also gives us the ability to cut out all waste and we have been able to save not tens but hundreds of thousands of dollars since we started our rations three years ago.

    For the bees its not a matter of saving money, but supplementing lacking nutrition throughout the year. When I look at the cattle and grain we have everything measured and down on paper, to which we are managing. When I look at the bee part of the operation we leave everything up to whats coming in from the environment around them, and fankly I have no idea if they are getting what they need from month to month

    I plan on becoming more familiar with whats going on with the bees
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  5. #5
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    Sep 2007
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    New Albany, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Ian,

    From a production standpoint, just making sure supplemental feed is available goes a long way. We started feeding summer splits to build them through the summer and into the fall. From the looks of your honey crops, nectar is not a concern, but do they bring in pollen with it too?

    Also, keep in mind that feeding bees is like feeding cattle or any other production animal in a confinement setting where resources may be limited. Are you feeding dairy or beef, lactating cows, growing calves, summer or winter?

    Joe
    Last edited by JSL; 02-13-2014 at 02:48 PM.
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
    www.latshawapiaries.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Joe, I realize lots of attention is put towards trying to cram as much protien into an edable supplement in a cost effective manner as possible. I get protein, but for everything else, when your making up your supplement mix, how do you know what other dietary needs are required? What reference do you follow to which you aim to target?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  7. #7
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    Sep 2007
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    New Albany, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Ian,

    I wouldn't say it is about how much protein you can cram in but rather it is about balance. Wasn't it the Tech Transfer Team that showed good results with a supplement that had about 11.7% protein and 1.4% fat? The diet also had 66% sugar. We have had very good results with low protein diets, but many beekeepers seem convinced that more is better. I say balance is better and drive consumption.

    When we started developing the vitamin and mineral supplement we started with analyses of composite pollen samples to paint the initial picture. We then borrowed from other animal disciplines to begin tweaking and improving the basic formulation. It is an ongoing process!

    Your comments about saving money through research are interesting. When large animal farmers moved from pasture to supplemental feeds it was an "added expense". I think beekeepers still view supplemental feed as an "added expense", but as we increase population densities and demands on our colonies, there is much to be gained from improved supplemental nutrition.

    Joe
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
    www.latshawapiaries.com

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Okay, does this look like a balanced amino acid profile for a honeybee?

    Arginine 3%
    Histidine 1.75%
    Isoleucine 4%
    Leucine 4.25%
    Lysine 3%
    Methionine 1.75%
    Phenylaianine 2.5%
    Threonine 3%
    Tryptophan 1%
    Valine 4%

    As for the minerals, I have found a chart listing average amounts found within pollen. Phosphorus .53%, Potassium .58%, Calcium .23%, Magnesium .15%, Sodium .04%, and so on. Too much mineral ingestion can be toxic to the bees. Do we know what the honeybees actually require? and at what level these mineral become toxic?
    Last edited by Ian; 02-13-2014 at 10:32 PM.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Loup City, NE
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    182

    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Ian, Yes that profile does, and its almost the same identical profile in buckwheat honey. Which is what I feed my bees only
    in emergency situations when they run out of their own stores.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2013
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    Buderim, Queensland, Australia
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    177

    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    Im looking for information on exactly what the nutritional needs are for honeybees. What exactly is a balanced amino acid profile for a bee look like? HOw much fat and protien is required in their diet, nutrients, micro nutrients and so on.

    I want a list of dietary requirements so that when I get a pollen analyses done I can compare what is coming into the hive to what is needed by the bees, and perhaps supplement some of their dietary requirements if needed, or if possible.

    I know lots of beekeepers have a great handle on nutrition and supplemental feeding. I just starting down that road of better understanding bee nutrition
    Ian, do you have Eucalypts over there? In this country we are fortunate enough to have crude protein content of pollens researched and described. It is not uncommon for commercial beekeepers here to trap, freeze and feedback nutritious pollen in times of dearth or feed it back to the bees when they are on pollen deficient honey flows. This is an Australian publication that can be downloaded and maybe helpful in your quest for nutritional information.
    https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/05-054

  11. #11
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    Jan 2003
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    Manitoba Canada
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Yes we have a very high quality pollen source, canola and clover, and lots of it. It is pretty much the reason why we dont need to feed as beekeepers will in California and further south.

    To many beekeepers the amount of pollen sub we actually feed up here is laughable to any Californian beekeeper. Our hive pack full of pollen every summer that it pretty much holds the hives through all our dearths.
    But two summers ago we experienced a mid season drought which baked our crops. Im certain the pollen coming in that summer was pretty much equivalent to rice cakes as brood rearing ended early in late summer. Our brood rearing was lousy the next spring. In situations like I'm certain that if I was better prepared I could of supplemented the hives to promote better brooding conditions.
    I got to know what level of nutrition is coming into my hives. I also got to know what exactly the bees need.
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  12. #12
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    Apr 2012
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    bridgewater , nova scotia
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    So if you find out a magical recipe are you going to make patties and sell them ?

    I think it would be hard to get proper nutrition nailed down when every place beekeepers go is different because of whatever food source is there for the bees , I am sure monoculture landscapes create a lot of issues in large farming areas .
    I hope it all works out for you

    Ben
    Ben Little <The Little Bee Farm> https://www.facebook.com/TheLittleBeeFarm
    Nova Scotia Canada

  13. #13
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    Feb 2014
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    Ottawa, ON
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    19

    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Ian,
    here is an interesting study out of UofG.
    http://blog.lib.umn.edu/beesquad/myb...Spring2006.pdf

    It reflects findings for a pollen rich environment and relatively stress free bees. If an Ontario spring comes in fits and starts or with weeks of weather not suitable to foraging then feeding is cost effective. Otherwise it will even out by the end of summer.

    "Supplementing the pollen diet of colonies in the
    spring is cost-intensive in terms of materials and labor.
    This study shows that in one of 3 yr, supplementing
    nutritionally stressed colonies would have been an
    economically sound choice for beekeepers, but the
    long-term beneficial effects were negligible during the
    other two seasons. The lack of certainty regarding the
    long-term effects of early pollen stress makes decisions
    regarding the management of spring pollen diet
    difficult for beekeepers because they must begin feeding
    their colonies in March, long before late spring
    foraging conditions can be predicted, if they want to
    gain the potential benefits of their effort. When a
    large spring population is particularly important, such
    as for the pollination of early season crops, the production
    of packages bees, or building strong colonies
    for spring divisions, supplementing the pollen diet of
    colonies early in the spring would be cost-effective for
    producing the desired result (as recommended by
    Standifer et al. 1973b, Farrar 1993)."

    Regards Peter
    Ottawa. ON

  14. #14
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    Dec 2008
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    Menomonee Falls, Wis.
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Ian , I applaud your efforts, but I am afraid you may be trying to hit a moving target. By the time you get your results back, the field conditions will have changed. I am sure that with enough history , you could predict field conditions from past lab results, but I am not sure you are willling to make that long term investment.

    The summer of your drought, where the same plants blooming? If so, on the same plant, how do you calculate the effect of drought on pollen quality?

    Crazy Roland

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Exactly Roland, exactly. I'm just trying to at least see what that target is because right now I have little idea. If I can at least see that target then perhaps I can be more responsive in the future.
    I'm sure I sound foolish asking these questions, as I kinda feel foolish, but I actually feel more foolish by not knowing what nutritional value my nectar and pollen producing plants are providing for the bees.

    I have been looking around for some info on pollen analysis on plants around here, anyone with some links?
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

  16. #16
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    Sep 2007
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    New Albany, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Ian,

    Your values are certainly reasonable.

    I agree with Roland. In confinement agriculture it is relatively easy to determine livestock nutrient intake. But with honey bees, there is much more variation as they forage over a much bigger pasture and variety of resources.

    Optimal supplemental feed is a difficult goal to reach. Perhaps acceptable or ideal may be more realistic. I feed to ensure food is not the limiting factor in colony growth and development. I can't change the weather. While feeding does not ensure survival it does improve colony performance and productivity. It is similar to say your beef cattle. Cattle have grazed the grass lands for a long time. They survived, but then farmers began to realize they could increase productivity by supplementing the cattle's diet. Beekeeping is no different. However, the quality and quantity of supplement is up to each farmer/beekeeper.

    Your questions are not foolish at all. I think balance is the key to any diet. If an organism ingests a balanced diet, and their conditions require more or less energy consumption, they can simply eat more or less. If the diet is overloaded with a small level of nutrients, it is much harder for the organism to compensate. Most people reason that the organism will simply eat more to compensate and get the nutrients they need. BUT, what do they do with the nutrients they DO NOT need? They have to do something as there is a "back log" so to speak in their body, so they actually consume less to try and purge the back log of unusable nutrients. Some excess nutrients are easily excreted, others are not.

    Joe
    Breeder Queens & Honey Bee Nutritional Supplements
    www.latshawapiaries.com

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Mirabel, Québec, Canada
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    423

    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    How much does analyzing food cost?

    The CRAAQ just released a pretty interesting handbook on pollinators and bee-friendly plants, with a lot of pollen and nectar yield data. If we had nutritional values for these as well, it could help to mix up a good bee pasture.

    As a lot of these plants (weeds) are vigorous and either reseeding or perennials, these pastures would probably be low-maintenance and have a high lifespan before needing renewing. It would probably pay up in terms of feed needs and bee health over a few years.

    Mind you, probably not as economical as a cash crop, but I could also see a bee prairie made of annuals to integrate as part of a rotation. In any case, knowing the nutritional value of pollens and nectars is sure to be of use to some people.
    www.apisrustica.com (French-only website) Bee Breeding: Canadian nuclei & queens / northern hygienic bees

  18. #18
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    VENTURA, California, USA
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Ian,
    I started this topic a few years ago.
    It could give you some information,
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...EE+NUTRITIONAL
    Ernie
    My websitehttp://bees4u.com/

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    Ottawa, ON
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    19

    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    [QUOTE=so that when I get a pollen analyses done I can compare what is coming into the hive to what is needed by the bees, and perhaps supplement some of their dietary requirements if needed, or if possible.
    [/QUOTE]

    Ian, here is a link to some papers describing pollen analysis and crude protein content of honey bee collected pollen. note the side link to a similar Spanish study.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/...1#.Uv-LC8KYbmI

    Regards Peter
    Ottawa. ON

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Honeybee Dietary Needs

    Quote Originally Posted by BEES4U View Post
    Ian,
    I started this topic a few years ago.
    It could give you some information,
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/show...EE+NUTRITIONAL

    oh ya, thats a conversation worth reading!

    Thanks again guys!
    Ian Steppler >> Canadian Beekeeper's Blog
    www.stepplerfarms.com

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