January 27, 2018 (Saturday)
It’s late January and fortunately for the bees, Maryland temperatures are like a mild roller coaster. It warms up every week or two, allowing them to relieve themselves, get some exercise, and forage for food. I feel sad when the girls are outside the hives scanning the yard for pollen and there’s nothing but dead trees and brown grass.
A friend recently sent me a video of bees hovering around her bird feeder, foraging on seed and corn. She then followed it up with an article that explained how bird seed and corn are often laced with pollen. So if you see the bees giving your birds some competition at the feeders, now you know why. Of course, the lightbulb went off and I kicked myself for not having fed dry pollen to the bees sooner.
Commercial beekeepers free-feed dry pollen or pollen substitute to their bees in colder months, so I decided to give it a try. I’ve seen them layer the pollen inside of a piece of gutter pipe or something that would protect the pollen from blowing away, and would also provide some coverage incase of rain. I’d only put it out on warmer days when the bees can get out. The pollen would need to be replaced regularly to prevent it from getting icky. You wouldn’t want the bees eating icky pollen.
I happened to have a sizable PVC pipe that I’m thrilled to have found a use for. It’s nice and heavy and won’t blow away. I spread a thin layer of pollen substitute across the inside, and also sprinkled some on the ground around the pipe. The location should bee at least 50 feet from the hives, to prevent a robbing frenzy (less risk of this in the winter, but still, better to bee safe). I placed it in a raised garden bed that the bees were already attracted to.
As you can see in the video above, it worked very well. The bees found it quickly and really seem to enjoy it. So note to self, when the temperatures rise, don’t just feed the birds….put some pollen out for the bees too!