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Pollen substitutes and supplements

We received the following message from M D Musa: I refer to your article on Better beekeeping in top-bar hives. things that can go wrong (BfD Journal 72). The discussion is very useful. Would you please ask Pam Gregory to describe the mixing ratio of the artificial pollen patty, as the information is not given?

Pam responds

A pollen substitute is defined as any material that can be used to replace natural pollen as the source of protein for brood rearing. Pollen supplements contain 10-25% of natural pollen in the mixture in order to maximise available protein. They have slightly different functions and the terms should not be used interchangeably. Some authorities suggest that the term ‘pollen extenders’ rather than ‘pollen supplements’ would be less confusing.

The most commonly used protein sources are soyabean meal, skimmed milk powder and brewers’ yeast. The person most closely associated with this work is Haydak, who in 1967 recommended the following pollen substitute:

3 parts soyabean flour : 1 part dried brewers'

yeast : 1 part dried skimmed milk.

The mixture can be fed dry, as long as it can be kept clean and dry.

It may also be provided outside the hive. This formulation might be most suitable for people using top-bar hives, who are not able to place a moist pollen patty close enough to the brood area. For a moist patty the dry ingredients are incorporated into a sugar syrup solution made of 2 parts sugar to 1 part hot water (measured by volume). Each 500 g of dry ingredients are mixed with two litres of syrup to make a paste. The sugar syrup and dry ingredients must be mixed together thoroughly and left to stand overnight before use. This ensures that the liquid is fully absorbed into the powders to form a stiff dough. The consistency should be such that it will stay on top of the frames without running down.

If pollen is used in the mixture it must be first made moist enough for the pellets to break down, by adding a little water and mixing it thoroughly. A typical recipe is:

3 parts soyaflour : 1 part brewers’ yeast :2 parts pollen.

It is important to note that natural pollen can carry the causal agents of chalk brood, American foulbrood (AFB) and European foulbrood (EFB) and so should only be used if it has been collected from a known source.

Further reading

BfD Information Centre atwww.beesfordevelopment.org

DIETZ, A (1986) Nutrition of the adult honeybee. In: 7he Hive and the Honeybee chapter 5: pp 120-147. Dadant & Sons, Hamilton, IL, USA.

MORSE, R A (ed) (1989) The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture 40th ed. Al Root Co, Medina, OH, USA.

MORSE, R; HOOPER, T (1985) Pollen supplements and substitutes. In: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Beekeeping: pp 299-300. Blandford Press, Poole, UK.