Tag Archive | Pollen

Open Feeding Pollen to the Bees During Winter

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!

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Making Up for Lost Time

Friday, May 15, 2015

The honey flow is in full force right now.  While everyone else is hacking and sneezing, the bees are taking advantage of the spring blooms. They’re crazy busy collecting pollen and nectar, procreating, and making honey.  Go girls, go!

Chilled Brood

We did have a minor setback about 2 weeks ago.  Frost set in for several evenings, chilling the eggs and larvae, as shown in the photo below, and setting the girls back a week or two.  When I inspected the hives, I naturally thought the queen was once again having issues.  But seeing as I’ve been through this exact scenario only a few weeks earlier, I checked back a week later and found the queens were back in business, quickly laying new brood.

photoHeavy Supers

I added supers to all hives about a month ago.  This past week I lifted them off for inspection and realized how heavy they are already!  That’s exciting news and could indicate a good honey harvest (no jinxing).  By this weekend, I hope to have a second layer of supers on all of my hives.  Good thing I’ve been cleaning frames and boxes.  I’ve stacked quite a few boxes in the greenhouse. Lots of light in there to keep wax moths away.  I’ve given up on maintaining consistent color schemes and have succumbed to mixing them up.

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Expanding the Brood Chambers

In addition to adding supers, my other strategy was to adapt “The Rose Hive” method of adding brood boxes just above the bottom box to expand the brood chamber (laying area) rather than expanding from above.  Bees swarm because they run out of space to lay and/or there’s lack of ventilation.  The theory is that if you continue to expand the brood chamber and ensure they have plenty of room, then they will continue to populate and won’t have reason to swarm.  Makes perfect sense to me!  I don’t believe you can ever prevent them from swarming, but they may bee inclined to stay a bit longer.

With that said, all of these supers and brood boxes are stacking up into some pretty tall colonies.  My next strategy is to start splitting so we can get yellow hive back up and running.

Loving this gorgeous spring weather.  Hard to get upset about the pollen when I know how happy my bees are.  Hang in there everyone, and keep eating your local raw honey.  The more local the better!

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Bees are Springing to Life!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

We had a wonderfully warm high 50’s day and the bees were crazy!!!  I started into winter with 5 hives, and had one that died out and 4 that appear to bee thriving.  I couldn’t bee more excited!

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So now that spring is in the air and the bees know it, what’s a beekeeper to do?  Well, spring is all about getting those girls up and running ASAP.  They’ve been clustered all winter, so they have some catching up to do!  They’ve been feeding on sugar cakes, and they likely have plenty of pollen stored up, but to bee safe I whipped up a batch of my gourmet pollen patties.

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When temps are consistently in the 50’s, then I’ll put some jars of syrup on the hives and that will really get the queens laying so they can get their numbers up.  The more bees, the more nectar and pollen can be brought into the hive when things begin to bloom, and the more honey they’ll produce.

Remember those swarms last year?  Well, that’s what overwintered hives do when they run out of room and don’t have enough ventilation.  This year, I plan to stay on top of things and make sure they have both.  I also intend to plant several swarm traps around the yard, and we need to figure out where we can put more hives.  Yee gads, more hives you say?  Now you sound like my husband.  You’ve gotta put ’em somewhere when you catch ’em.  Of course, I’ve heard other beekeepers say they’ve had more success catching other people’s swarms than their own when using swarm traps.  Hey, that’s ok too.  My swarms are probably happily residing in someone else’s hive.

Temps will be in the 40’s and 50’s this week, with a chance of snow on Thursday.  Ugh!!  Just when we thought it was over!  That’s always a bad thing when temps are warmer, then sudden cold sets in and the bees aren’t ready for it.  Just shows that we’re not out of the woods quite yet.  Regardless, I’ll bee cleaning frames and adding top boxes with jars of sugar syrup so the girls can get themselves juiced up.

Would love to hear how everyone else’s hives are doing and their strategies for pushing into spring!  All the best for happy spring hives!

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Back from Vacation

July 4, 2014 (Friday)

I have returned after a week away from the girls and I’m happy to report that they are all present and accounted for, happily buzzing about and making the garden grow so tall that even my tallest hives barely peek over top.

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The garden provides some food sources, as does the clover and flowers, but trees are the primary sources of pollen and nectar for the bees. Now that they’ve stopped blooming, we’re experiencing some dearth, resulting in robbing activity and a frenzy on our hummingbird feeders. During our drive through South Dakota, the grasslands were filled with yellow flowered alfalfa. I thought about how my bees would go nuts in a field like that.

I’m always amazed at the many, many locations that would bee perfect for keeping bees – like parks, nature reserves, and vast fields of wildflowers. Seems to me the best way to increase the bee populations is to give them more places to live and flourish. So I was happy to see apiaries set up periodically in the grasslands along the highway.

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I wondered if I would have noticed them were I not a beekeeper. I’m so much more aware of bee-related things now, spotting beehives, bees, flowers and nectar sources.  It was good to get away, but I’m happy to bee home tending to my own bees, picking the fruits of their labor from the garden, and keeping tabs on their honey production. They’re coming along slowly but surely. Soon we’ll be extracting honey that WE can eat.  Perhaps as soon as this weekend…

YH2 Gets a Brood Transplant

August 2, 2013 (Day 84)

Battling Beetles and Helping Yellow Hive Requeen

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) is still having problems. Based on the last inspection, the hive has Small Hive Beetles and the comb is empty and without brood. I also found a wax moth larvae. All serious issues if not dealt with right away.

The Plan of Attack

The best defense for any hive against pests is a strong colony. Granted, YH2 has not been as active, but it still has ALOT of bees, and they are still guarding their hive. After speaking with my bee supplier, he suggested I reduce the size of YH2 from 4 boxes to 3 boxes. This condenses the colony so they have more bees and less space to cover for fighting off the beetles and pests.

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His other suggestion, besides using a hive beetle trap inside the hive, was to take a frame of brood from GH1 and put it into YH2. This would give the YH2 girls a good foundation for breeding a new queen.

Making Pollen Patties

I also started feeding the girls pollen patties since they’re not bringing in pollen and they really need the protein. I had ordered a bucket of BeePro pollen substitute, mixed it with sugar syrup and HoneyBHealthy, and rolled out my own homemade pollen patties. The girls have taken to them well. I posted this tutorial on SnapGuide, so go check it out!

Check out How to How to Make Pollen Patties for Bees by Paula P on Snapguide.

Two Homemade Pollen Patties

Beezilla Returns

Inspections are one thing, but this time I really had to know exactly what to do and how to do it BEFORE going in. I entered YH1 first, removed all the boxes down to Box 1. I looked through box 1 to verify there indeed was no brood. And I couldn’t find a queen, and no brood means either she’s died or she’s not in good laying order. So that meant leaving YH2 open while digging into GH1 for a frame of brood. GH1 has been doing outstanding, so they could afford to help YH2 out. I removed a center frame from YH2’s bottom box, shook off the bees and set it aside.

Helpful Tip Using Pillow Cases or Landscaping Fabric

I don’t like just leaving the boxes open like that. The bees operate in a dark hive and don’t care for the sunlight, plus they fly around like crazy wondering what’s going on. A fellow Maryland beekeeper and blogger, Suburban Rancher, suggested overlaying open boxes with pillow cases. A brilliant idea, except I didn’t bring any pillow cases with me to the apiary, and I don’t know that I have any on hand anyway. Then I remembered I had some black landscaping fabric. I pulled it out of the greenhouse and laid it over YH2 and it worked like a charm. It’s lightweight, keeps the bright light out, and the bees were more settled and not flying around everywhere.

Stealing Brood

I opened GH1 and removed a beautiful frame of capped brood, verified the queen was not on it, then shook the bees off and back into the box. I replaced that frame with another drawn out frame from an upper GH1 box, and replaced the upper frame with a brand new frame.

Capped Brood from GH1

Capped Brood from GH1

GH1 received a nice pollen patty as a reward for their donation, then I closed them up and grabbed their empty feeder bucket for a refill. GH1 goes through a lot of sugar syrup! I also did not see any beetles in their hive. A testament to a strong hive’s ability to fight off their foes.

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YH2 Gets a Brood Transplant

I placed the capped brood frame into YH2 and placed a pollen patty over the top bars of the brood area. The last pollen patty was completely consumed so I was hoping this one would be just as popular. Protein aids in brood production. In this case, I hoped it would aid in queen production.

Beetles were emerging left and right. I smooshed as many as I could. I’m sure a few will go for the pollen patty. I closed up the hive, with the exception of box 4 (the top box). I shook the bees from box 4 into the hive and left YH2 with only 3 boxes. I wrapped box 4 with kitchen trash bags and happily discovered that the entire box and frames fit comfortably in the bottom of my freezer. Freezing will kill any unwanted pests and bacteria and then I can figure out how to store it for later.

I also inserted two homemade hive beetle traps made with CD cases and some boric acid bait into the hive entrances. The bees chase the beetles around, and hopefully the beetles will seek refuge in the bait filled CD case. This is an experiment so we shall see if they work. I’ll still be picking up some Beetle Blaster this weekend.

YH2 only ate half their sugar syrup. I refilled it anyway. Now we just wait and see if YH2 can requeen and make a total recovery. Fingers crossed.

How to Make Pollen Patties

Since the pollen has died down, the girls need protein. So I ordered a bucket of BeePro – pollen substitute – and after watching a few videos, came up with my own recipe for pollen patties. Easy to do, I added HoneyBHealthy for some added nutrients. The girls took to them immediately! I kept the patties to no larger than 4×4 inches.  This recipe makes about 4-6 patties, but you can multiply the recipe to make more.  They freeze well until needed.

Note:  Pollen patties attract hive beetles, so ideally you want the bees to consume the patty within 3 days.  Best not to put more than one patty in the hive at one time, unless you have a very strong hive and minimal problems with hive beetles. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pollen substitute (I use Bee Pro by Mann Lake, available on Amazon for $19 at tub)
  • 1/2 cup sugar syrup (1:1 or 2:1)
  • 1/4 tsp HoneyBHealthy

Instructions

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Gather your ingredients.

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Mix them together. Hands work well. You want the consistency of play-doh.

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Pull off a piece no larger than a golf ball. The piece in this photo is too big.

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Place between two sheets of wax paper or parchment and roll them into patties.

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About a 1/4 inch thickness is good.

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Leave the patty between the wax paper and cut the excess paper around the edges.

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Here are your pollen patties. Use the edge of a knife to cut rows of small slits across the top and bottom so the bees can have easy access without having to remove the paper. The paper keeps the patty from breaking up and falling between the frames. The girls will eat right through it.

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Lay directly on top of the frames above the brood and remove the top layer of wax paper.

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Its love at first bite!