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Feeding pollen to bees

Pollen is an important part of the colony diet

The amount of pollen stored in a colony needs a little more understanding than it is often given. Beekeepers are told, often warned, of the extremes of pollen shortage or heavy storage in combs. The former encourages the feeding of pollen, whether the colony needs it or not, the latter, which is called "pollen clogged combs", to remove the combs with pollen in, so there is more space for the queen to lay eggs. Those giving advice or are teaching don't seem to realise that pollen is required in the feeding of the subsequent larvae.

As with other topics in beekeeping, observe the colony and see what is happening. Note the amount of pollen in combs, so you can spot if there is a shortage. In my experience, bees will store as much pollen as they need, either for immediate or future use, but it has to be available naturally. Bees have a neat mechanism for collecting and storing the right amount.

In about 60 years of seeing bees in many different areas, I have only seen one apiary where all the colonies had a pollen shortage. It stuck out like a sore thumb, but the beekeeper didn't notice, even though they were commercial and taught beekeeping as part of the business! I have never fed pollen, as I have never found a need to and I'm sure that many beekeepers who feed it don't have to either. If one colony in an apiary is short of pollen, then it is likely there is a local dearth, so all colonies will be short. Check it out, don't just feed pollen because you were told to or you have been taken in by persuasive advertising. If there is a genuine shortage, then pollen substitute can be given.

Roger Patterson.

Page created 29/08/2022

Page updated 04/09/2022