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Last year was the first time in many years I have fed my bees a pollen substitute - I made my own from soy flour. I was actually quite surprised when they seemed to use them right up. Many years ago I used patties and the bees pretty much ignored them. Of course last winter here was quite cold by our standards, so that probably had a lot to do with it. This year I bought Mann Lake Bee Pro patties. I am unsure when to start putting patties on for the bees to use. It has been quite a warm end to the year and there is a small amount of natural pollen coming in to the hives. What are the rules for feeding bees pollen subs ?
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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According to Rusty Burlew, anytime after winter solstice is fine. You're in NC so pay attention to SHB and don't put in too much at one time. I will be putting in 1/4 of a patty in each hive tomorrow.
 

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What are the rules for feeding bees pollen subs ?
There are no 'rules' around feeding supplements.

I think you have to first understand, what are your objectives, ie the reasons you are providing the supplemental feed. Once you understand the 'why', then it becomes easier to rationalize the 'when' and 'how'.

In our case, we have a very specific reason to feed patties thru the spring. Our bees will typically start brooding in earnest by mid February, we believe this is triggered by the early February hazelnut pollen. The problem we face from February thru April, weather can be very sporadic, and it's not unusual to go 10 successive bad weather days such that the bees will not be able to fly. It is mentioned often in the 'common knowledge' that when the bees run short of pollen, they have a tendancy to cannibalize brood when they dont have enough available to feed all the brood in progress. This can really set back the growth of a colony thru the spring buildup, and we do want our colonies to be approaching good strength by mid April when the first spring flows arrive. We start putting supplements on our colonies mid February. Our goals with supplemental feeding are to ensure they never run out of food for brood in progress, even if they go a week or more without foraging due to inclement weather.

Our intention is less about 'promoting' growth, and more about 'prevent contraction' of the population during the early spring part of the season. I see the first two rounds of brood from mid Feb thru March as critical, it's the time when winter bees are being replaced. If the winter bees fail to raise a good round during this period, then the colony will be set back tremendously, and possibly not make it thru till the times when resources become abundant. I know the discussion is typically around 'winter losses', but our experience is, before we started feeding patties diligently during the first couple of spring brood rounds, we saw more losses in March than in the period from October thru February. These spring losses come about when the winter population fails raising the first rounds of replacement bees.
 

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There are no 'rules' around feeding supplements.

I think you have to first understand, what are your objectives, ie the reasons you are providing the supplemental feed. Once you understand the 'why', then it becomes easier to rationalize the 'when' and 'how'.

I
I am about 200 miles south of you. Last year I didn't start feeding untill mid march and it was to late. Others in my area started earlier and my bees never caught up to theirs. I have been trying to decide when to start this year. I was planning on Feb 1. The wind storm we had down here several weeks ago cost me over half my hives. So I really want to get as early start as possible in order to start recouping my losses.
 

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. Once you understand the 'why', then it becomes easier to rationalize the 'when' and 'how'..
Thanks for the excellent, timely advice. Problem: only treated 3 OAV X 1 week Aug-Sept. Should have treated again late October due to warm weather. Goal: keep my bees alive, not to exceed 10 colonies, currently at 5 (3 strong, 2 weak). Plan: Due to early seasonal blooms (pink trees?) and impending Maple blooms (buds are bursting) - consider conservative feeding to cover pollen dearth for optimal colonoy seasonal growth (ie: not excessive growth).

Had something happen this weekend I've never seen before: one of our gals landed on our grilled chicken dinner. Have to assume either protien gathering or salt. :scratch:
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Was she wearing a little napkin and carrying a knife and fork?

Back to the feeding, I would be feeding them as much pollen sub as they want in a feeder. SHB might be a problem if you put in patties and don't check them regularly. I am already giving them the whole arsenal. 1:1 syrup, sugar bricks, pollen sub in a feeder and pollen patties in the nucs. Winter here has been warmer than normal with many flying days. The bees seem to burn through their stores more rapidly in this kind of weather so I am not holding back. My goal is to produce a lot of bees early and still get a honey harvest so more bees is better. Swarming becomes a concern if the hives get too big too soon but I have plans for a bunch of splits.
 

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Was she wearing a little napkin and carrying a knife and fork?

Back to the feeding, I would be feeding them as much pollen sub as they want in a feeder. SHB might be a problem if you put in patties and don't check them regularly. I am already giving them the whole arsenal. 1:1 syrup, sugar bricks, pollen sub in a feeder and pollen patties in the nucs. Winter here has been warmer than normal with many flying days. The bees seem to burn through their stores more rapidly in this kind of weather so I am not holding back. My goal is to produce a lot of bees early and still get a honey harvest so more bees is better. Swarming becomes a concern if the hives get too big too soon but I have plans for a bunch of splits.
Is it not early to feed 1:1 yet?

I have been overwintering 5x5 medium nucs and found out that they are almost out of stores though they were heavily fed in fall. Gave them pollen patties when it was warm and I am planning to give them sugar bricks soon when I have the chance.
 

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In my area I haven't ever felt the need to feed pollen subs. The idea of a premature buildup and unnecessarily large population of consumers (ahead of the nectar flow) seems to create an elevated risk of starvation and early swarming.
I understand the need for those big early populations to meet pollination contracts. I also know that all beekeeping is local so your needs may vary.
 

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This year the nectar and pollen flows were dismal at best. I had to feed heavily this fall to get the hives up to weight and even then some are light. Last year, there was plenty of stored pollen in the frames, this year barely any. I started feeding 1:1 last year in mid January and the bees did very well. This year has been warmer so far so I moved the start date up a bit. Once you start feeding in late winter you do have to continue until the flow starts or the bees will starve. In my case, I need enough bees to make around 20 nucs for sale and produce 40+ queens by the end of April. I want the girls working at making bees now.
 
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