Bee diseases and pollen feedback

Honey bee collected pollen is an ideal medium for the spread of bee diseases, especially American brood disease.

Beekeepers collecting pollen for their own use must ensure that the hives are 100% clean from American brood disease. This can be done by inspection and/or honey testing methods.

If pollen is being purchased from an unknown source, ensure that it has been sterilis by irradiation prior to purchase.

Methods of feeding pollen back to bees

The easiest method of feeding pollen back to bees is to place the pollen in a shallow dish and put it under the lid of the beehive. Another method is to remove 3 or 4 frames from the super and place the dish of pollen on the queen excluder. The bees will come and feed on this pollen, as they need it. It is interesting to note that the bees will feed on the pollen only when they want it, and not store it in the combs as they do sugar syrup.

Some beekeepers mix the pollen with sugar syrup and make a putty-like mixture. A handful of this mixture is pushed over the top bars of the frames of the brood nest or smeared over the queen excluder. The bees will feed on this mixture over a two to three week period.

Open feeding

The feeding of pollen or any beefeed in the open is a little risky, as sometimes the local mice, possums and other wildlife, as well as other people's bees, will feed on the pollen. Other problems can occur, such as rain spoiling the feed and wind blowing it away. However, it is a very convenient way to feed bees especially in dry weather.

Bees will agressively take protein feeds at open feeding stations during late winter and spring, but are reluctant to take protein feed in the summer and autumn by this method. A very successful method of open feeding is to take a 20-litre drum and remove half of both ends, so the drum can still contain about 10 litres. Make some covers out of chicken wire that can push over the ends of the drum. The drum is suspended from a tree or pole, in the middle of the apiary so it is at eye height for the beekeeper. The pollen or bee feed is put into the drum and the chicken wire covers replaced.

The bees will fly into the drum, through the chicken wire, collect the bee feed, and then fly back home.

During the springtime when bees are really hungry for pollen, a strong hive of bees will eat about 250 grams of feed per week. An outside feeder, as described, will contain approximately 8kg of feed. So one feeder per 30 to 35 hives would be required. However, at other times, such as midwinter, only one feeder per 100 hives may be sufficient.

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