Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
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    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
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    235

    Default Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    I'm in my 7th year of beekeeping and I've never used pollen substitute before. I see many on here that do use it late winter but it would appear not all. Are there any downsides to using pollen substitute? I don't want to miss out on something I "should" be doing but don't want to waste money on something the bees don't need. Love to hear some feedback and comments from experience both for and against.

    Thanks!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
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    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    I know lots of people that use sub. I don't. Or, I should say, I do ONLY when there are dire conditions. I never feed sub early since...well...it's early for pollen. The bees get off on their timing. My opinion is that there are a lot of beekeepers that do things just because they can and not necessarily because they should. So.....

    ....if you want to feed sub, consider carefully why you're adding a food source and what the consequences are. Consider the effect of artificially boosting brood and whether the colony has the long term fortitude to sustain those numbers. And whether or not your environment mimics your artificial "world".

    Also consider the sub. There's a lot of them out there and a lot are good. I've used many of them before with good luck. And, of course, I've had colonies that I never even thought of subbing that boomed. For me, if you're going to feed, feed the real thing. It may be expensive but it's real.

    Finally, feeding sub isn't a "wow...I think I'll do this" thing. It's an important piece of a management plan that includes feeding, splitting, harvesting, pest / disease management and the always present loss acceptance. Building up a fall colony with lots of sub is disastrous if the swollen hive runs out of food right after the January thaw....or worse....2 weeks before the dandelions pop. Much of the same for late winter feeding. Oh...and if you start, don't stop until they won't take it. Nothing worse than setting up a cold colony for early spring starvation.
    Last edited by Ravenseye; 08-24-2017 at 07:18 PM. Reason: Thought of more stuff.....
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    7,861

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    Subs, when use in a well managed manner will give you plenty of bees at the right time. Going through my 5th year on the subs feeding.
    I have found and use all natural (subs) ingredients only. Whatever I can put in my mouth my bees will eat them (subs) too.
    Today bought 2 more boxes of the non-fat milk powder for mixing the subs later on. It is only one of the few key ingredients. Even when they have natural pollen coming in with the added subs the non-flying young bees will eat them up like pancakes. My bee environment will support using subs all year long including winter and early Spring build up. Right now is the summer time, they are going through a dearth. So I'm giving them something to munch on to keep up their hive population going into the early Autumn mini flow. Without the subs I cannot keep many of my summer nuc hives here. Many young bees will go hungry because of the thin out summer nucs splits to make a new laying queen and give them a brood break too. Feeding on the subs, the newly mated laying queens or soon to be II queens will build up their brood nest faster just before the winter sets in. For sure the winter bees will be fatten up with the subs feeding. All I can say is use it at the right time your bees will benefit tremendously! They will make bigger QCs too while on the subs. Mine already have the natural pollen + all the natural subs ingredients added to help them along--All year long. If you can afford it and your bees will benefit from it then why not? Timing is the key to your success on subs feeding without all the
    negative effects as mentioned before.



    Double nuc subs feeding through the dearth:
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Red Bud, IL, USA
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    1,810

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    +1 with Ravenseye

    For me, subs are a tool that has its uses and place; I only use it when I have a good reason.
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Bradley County, Tennessee
    Posts
    39

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    I'm a little gun shy about using subs. My first experience using it (this past spring) was bad. I had just gotten my first package of bees and, just set up my hive. I was told to feed them sub to get them growing. It made sense to me because it was my first hive ever and all of the frames in it were brand new so, they had nothing to eat. I fed them syrup and sub. Only a week later when I did my first inspection, I picked up the sub to see how much was eaten and the underside of the patty was crawling with small brown maggots!
    Someone told me it probably came that way when I bought it. I threw the box in the freezer to hopefully kill anything in it. I have not used it since. Anyone else ever hear of such a thing?

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Red Bud, IL, USA
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    1,810

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    SHB are attracted to sub patties but their larvae are white not brown. When I do use subs it's in small quantities to help avoid or at least minimize the shb issue.
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Grand Rapids MI USA
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    1,642

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    I used pollen patties for a while, nothing but a SHB nuisance. Even after a week I'd find larvae in them.
    I made up a pvc tube feeder to hang in the yard area and use them in the spring if the bees are flying and not much blooming, but I don't see much reason to feed them pollen sub after that.
    Rod

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Fertile, MN
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    156

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    if you plan to overwinter in a cool environment 40 degrees or less... then feeding subs starting in aug/sept and not much later than nov can help your bees get thru the winter. It is very important (most important besides mites/honey stores) to have your queen laying as much as possible in aug/sept/oct... and sub can help that along.

    dont feed past nov because what bees eat bees need to poop and they cannot poop when its 30 degrees outside except inside their hive.
    Young queens - Tanner Christianson

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Fertile, MN
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    156

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    if you have 2 boxes of bees id recommend 2 patties at a time.. no more or shb will get in there, they will anyway somewhat but not much. If you see some worms dont mind them they wont live to adulthood in MI this time of year.
    Young queens - Tanner Christianson

  11. #10
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Bailey, CO USA
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    67

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    Will bees consume sub if there is pollen available? Early in the year before the flowers really got going, I put a patty in each hive. It seemed like they just chewed it up and dropped to the bottom board. It was Bee Pro mixed with syrup, rolled out on wax paper, and then topped with another sheet of wax paper and rolled out even thinner (just under 1/8th inch thick), then placed over the top of the frames.
    Last edited by FlyboyBBQ69; 08-29-2017 at 08:47 AM. Reason: Added more info

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    Seattle WA
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    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    I am very fortunate to live in an area where natural pollen is usually available every month of the year, if the bees can get out of the hive to collect it. The only time I use pollen sub patties is with small nucs that may not have a large enough foraging population. I give them the sub to help the colony size up quickly. I do not have small hive beetles in this area. I also use Ultrabee powder in open feeders in late July and August. Some years, there is just no pollen available or not enough for their needs. In those years, they will eat 2-3 pounds of it a day. Other years, like this year, they will not even look at it because there is plenty of pollen available. I believe that the lack of available pollen makes for sickly bees and supplementing their protein needs helps keep them strong. The really good thing about the open feeding of the pollen sub is that if they need it, they take it. If they don't, they leave it alone.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    53,922

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    >Anyone else ever hear of such a thing?

    All the time. I call it "Small Hive Beetle Buffet"...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  14. #13
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Washington, USA
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    473

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    I am very fortunate to live in an area where natural pollen is usually available every month of the year, if the bees can get out of the hive to collect it.
    Really??? Seattle?
    Somebody forgot to give my bees a copy of the book.
    Zone 6B

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Randolph, New York
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    89

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodside View Post
    if you plan to overwinter in a cool environment 40 degrees or less... then feeding subs starting in aug/sept and not much later than nov can help your bees get thru the winter. It is very important (most important besides mites/honey stores) to have your queen laying as much as possible in aug/sept/oct... and sub can help that along.

    dont feed past nov because what bees eat bees need to poop and they cannot poop when its 30 degrees outside except inside their hive.
    I caught a LARGE swarm a week and a half ago. I know what you're all thinking but I'm going to try and see if I can get them built up and survive the winter. I'm pushing the 1:1 sugar water and we are in a good goldenrod flow but am concerned (among other things) that they may not be putting away much/enough pollen. So perhaps supplemental pollen might be appropriate at this time. Have never used pollen patties but have never tried this before either.

    Thoughts/suggestions?

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    Pepperell, MA.
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    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodside View Post
    if you plan to overwinter in a cool environment 40 degrees or less... then feeding subs starting in aug/sept and not much later than nov can help your bees get thru the winter. It is very important (most important besides mites/honey stores) to have your queen laying as much as possible in aug/sept/oct... and sub can help that along.

    dont feed past nov because what bees eat bees need to poop and they cannot poop when its 30 degrees outside except inside their hive.
    Then feed syrup too. I'm not fond of large, late season colonies that have built up artificially, struggling to get through the winter on "average" honey stores.

    Once you create an artificial element in your management plan you need to re-evaluate everything you do. Nature tends to be much smarter in that regard.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Illinois
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    61

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    If your bees have good forage, extra protein may be unnecessary. Where I live land use has changed dramatically over the last 20 years.

    I feed sub in early spring and fall. Protein plays an important role in bee physiology. Young bees have high protein levels in their bodies and so they can produce royal jelly. Eventually when the protein level in their body is depleted they become a forager.

    So it is with the winter bees. They have high protein levels and this contributes to their long life and hardiness compared to summer bees. For this reason I feed sub in late august and early September as this is when my winter bees are usually raised.

    When the winter bees start rearing brood again in the early spring, they use up the protein reserves in their bodies and revert to the short life span of summer bees. So I also feed sub when brood rearing starts to ramp up.

    its pretty cheap and easy to administer, and to me it's a useful tool to help get them ready for and through the winter.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    Feed when your bottom box doesn't have 6 frame of pollen tug in. The Autumn and Spring bees will
    rely on them to grow the big fat bees. That is why patty subs are so important here going through our
    summer dearth. No subs the Autumn bees cannot build up as summer bees died away. Even when natural
    pollen is coming in the young bees that cannot fly will munch on them.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Randolph, New York
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    89

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanApiaries View Post
    If your bees have good forage, extra protein may be unnecessary. Where I live land use has changed dramatically over the last 20 years.

    I feed sub in early spring and fall. Protein plays an important role in bee physiology. Young bees have high protein levels in their bodies and so they can produce royal jelly. Eventually when the protein level in their body is depleted they become a forager.

    So it is with the winter bees. They have high protein levels and this contributes to their long life and hardiness compared to summer bees. For this reason I feed sub in late august and early September as this is when my winter bees are usually raised.

    When the winter bees start rearing brood again in the early spring, they use up the protein reserves in their bodies and revert to the short life span of summer bees. So I also feed sub when brood rearing starts to ramp up.

    its pretty cheap and easy to administer, and to me it's a useful tool to help get them ready for and through the winter.
    I just checked them late this afternoon. Of the 10 deep frames, they've got about 5 frames drawn out with at least 1-2 frames full of eggs and larvae and the other frames containing pollen and sugar water (as I'm feeding them). Will continue monitoring. Am considering stealing 10 medium frames of drawn comb from another hive (doubtful they'll use it for honey as they are my weakest hive) and putting it above the deep box. She'll likely start laying immediately I would guess. Trouble is by the time they hatch our flow will be done. But I'll continue feeding and give serious thought to a pollen substitute. Again, I view this as an experiment...
    Thanks for all the suggestions/commentary.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Lumpkin County, GA
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    892

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    I divide a patty into 5 equal pieces and put one in each hive in January so there could be a big spring build-up.
    This year, however, we have had a cloudy, cool and rainy summer which is really impacting the bees foraging. The hives seem light in pollen so I am putting the patty pieces on the hives in August. If the hives don't take it, I will take it out after a week or two.
    I'm hesitant to put them on in the summer but I want them to build a good winter population.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    mineral county,Montana USA
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    1,326

    Default Re: Pollen substitute? Yay or nay?

    i try to have big populations for almonds so i started feeding sub yesterday, even though the hives are big and have lots of stores. i am putting 2 pounds on each and will probably feed 2 more pounds in a couple weeks. if i didn't go to almonds i wouldn't be pushing them with sub.

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