Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feeding Pollen Patties To Your Colonies

After you have decided to feed your colonies pollen patties, whether they are premade patties or you make your own, you need to put them on your hives. The first thing to do is to prepare your hive by smoking them in order to calm the bees before you open them. I like to puff some smoke into the entrance and wait a few minutes before opening the hive.

After smoking the entrances and staying ahead to give the bees time to become sedated, I take off the lid to make it easier to lift the upper hive body of the brood chamber from the lower one. Once the lid is off I separate the two hive bodies and puff some more smoke between them before lifting the upper hive body off. I find the bees remain more calm this way and I rarely use smoke under the outer or inner lid like I have seen some people do. I might use a little smoke when adding a honey super but I mainly do it to sedate the bees between the inner and outer covers before removing the outer cover.

After removing the upper hive body of the brood chamber I could see the remnants of a sugar cake that added to the colony a while back. A really friendly beekeeper in Washington state gave me a recipe for the cakes. The colony didn't really need the cake but I needed an excuse to open the hive.

After opening the hive down to the cluster area I decided to examine the the frames for brood. It had been a weeks (maybe three?) since I looked for any brood or eggs and this time I found some! The bees are not bringing in pollen yet so they are using last years reserves to begin brood rearing. It looks as if I intervened at the opportune moment. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you can see eggs in the cells adjacent to the capped brood. The frames beside this frame have a similar brood area. The bees are rearing brood closest to the center of where they cluster in order to keep the pupae at the proper incubation temperature and to avoid chilled brood.

The next picture has the queen in the midst of the workers. She is on some natural comb from a colony which I extracted last May. I can easily tell that the comb was from the cut-out because it is in a swarm catch frame.

After looking at the frames it was time to place the pollen patty. When placing the pollen patty be sure that all bee are off of the top bars. You can do this by gently smoking the bees or by lightly brushing them. After the top bars are clear of bees scrape off any comb that may be on the top bars before placing the pollen patty.

After the pollen patty is in position the upper hive body must be put back into place. Be sure to look at the bottom bars of the frames to ensure that there is no bees that will be squashed into the pollen patty. If there are bees there smoke them off and scrape away any burr comb that may be on the bottom bars.

Here's a picture of the top hive body back atop the lower hive body. This hive body is still full of honey and heavy. I doubt if I will need to feed this colony syrup. The only syrup this colony will most likely be getting is from stimulative communal syrup feeders.

Here's another colony with a pollen patty added.

Here I am clearing a seat for another patty.

Once the way is clear the patty is put into place.

Around an hour after placing the patties within the colonies I could see a big difference in the behavior of the hives. All the colonies were abuzz with action. Pollen patties encourages the foraging of honeybees as well as brood rearing.

It was really neat to see the increase in activity outside of the hives. It has been warmer here today in the past few weeks than it was today and the colonies exhibited much less activity. Though I monitored the entrances for bees returning to their homes I never did see one bee return with pollen. I believe it is a good thing that I gave them each a pollen patty since they are raising brood and do not have a source for pollen as of yet.

I surely hope that you enjoyed this post to my blog. This time of year it seems that there is always a lot of chatter about feeding pollen patties as everyone wants their colonies to start raising a lot of brood. Now instead of talking a big game I just go ahead and do what I want or need to do. I didn't need to add the patties but I wanted to help ensure healthy populations in a few months so I can start making nucs and raising queens. Thanks for reading the post and stay tuned because there is more to come.

Making Pollen Patties

Why would someone want to feed their bees pollen patties? To build the population of the colonies of course. Beekeepers have different reasons for wanting an early spring build up. The reason I am doing it is so hopefully I'll be able to start some nucs sooner and have plenty of bees in each colony to do so with. Some beekeepers do it to build the colony population so they can demand top dollar on pollination contracts. Other beekeepers do it to have higher populations of bees in order to collect a greater surplus of honey. Some build up their bees to make packages or shook swarms from them. Whatever your reason be sure that you implement some preventive swarm management if you give your colonies stimulative feed unless you just like catching swarms.

Making pollen patties for yourself is fairly simple. You may choose to feed a store bought pollen substitute or or mix your own. I bought some pollen substitute to mix into patties instead of mixing a bunch of different ingredients and to keep things simple. When I made my pollen patties all I needed was pollen substitute and sugar to make into syrup. High fructose corn syrup can be substituted for sugar syrup. The amount that you need depends on how many colonies you plan on feeding.

After I open a bag of sugar, and in this case also pollen substitute, I like to store it in a five gallon bucket. The lids to the buckets have rubber o-rings and are airtight. I don't have to worry about the contents drawing moisture and becoming ruined.

I have only sixteen colonies that need patties on them so I'm trying to make only enough for each colony. After doing some math I decided that a gallon of 2:1 syrup mixed with some pollen sub should be ample. To get a gallon of 2:1 you need to stir in eight pounds of water in to two quarts of boiling water. Be sure to add some cream of tarter to invert the syrup. The pollen patties will retain their moisture longer when using inverted sugar syrup.

After making a gallon of 2:1 invert syrup I measured out approximately one gallon and a half of pollen substitute.

Then I added the syrup.

After adding the syrup I began mixing the syrup and pollen sub with a paint mixer attached to a drill.

I used the drill and mixer until the ingredients were well mixed. The mixture was too thick so I added another pint and a half of 2:1 syrup so the mixture would gain the the texture of dough.

The best way I could think of scoping the mixture from the pail in which it was mixed was with a drywall finishing knife. One pound of the mixture will make a sizable patty when flattened to fit between the frames within the brood chamber of a colony.

Before scooping out some of the mixture it best to already have a piece of waxed paper ready and waiting to receive the mixture.

After I flattened out the patties I weighed them and was pretty consistent in making each patty close to one pound. I adjusted the tare on the scale according to the weight of the plate being used.

Below is a picture of the last four patties I spread onto the waxed paper. The patty on the right is for a little four frame nuc that I'll be building up over the next few months.

I did rather well with my guesstamation of how much syrup and pollen substitue to use. I did not have much left over after making sixteen patties. What I had left over was used to make some heavier patties for the bigger colonies since they can got through them quicker. I hope this helps you if you are thinking of making some patties and haven't before. They are really easy to make if you have some time and the right ingredients and equipment. I'll be sure to let you know how good my bees build up between now and when I split them.

If you enjoyed the information that I have passed along in order to help you make your own pollen patties, please click on one of the Google sponsored advertisements to show your appreciation. It would be like Throwing a few cents into the "need a penny, take a penny" tray at the gas station, only that it isn't your pennies!!! Thanks for taking the time to read this post.