It’s late summer in Phoenix and my bees are hungry.
I’ve set out pollen substitute and they are rolling around in it like pigs in mud. It’s quite endearing really. I’ve also been feeding them sugar syrup off and on and I’ve noticed that some of my hives are not as strong as they should be. I’m still figuring out the floral cycles here and watching where my bees are getting their food. It is a very local phenomenon. I have bees all over the valley and from neighborhood to neighborhood the hive strength differs from near starvation to abundance.
What to do for our bees now
I was asking one of Arizona’s most experienced and knowledgable beekeepers, Monica King, what we should be doing for our hives at this time of year to boost their numbers. In Arizona we often get another nectar flow in the early Fall and that can help strengthen a hive, but this year we are at a deficit with no monsoon. Even if that wasn’t the case, if a hive is small, then they don’t even have the numbers to collect enough food when the flow is good.
To remedy that, Monica recommends feeding constantly until the bees no longer need it (they will stop eating it in that case, so you will know). She sets out dry pollen substitute to see if the bees are interested in it, and if so, she gives them internal pollen patties and sometimes even sugar syrup. You can also watch and see if bees are hanging around animal feed as a clue. They are looking for protein, which is what pollen is for them. If you have small hives or one from a recent removal then you definitely need to feed them no matter what. If they can’t build comb then they can’t store food nor can the queen lay eggs. The colony will die.
Pollen Patties to the rescue
Inspired by this information, I decided to take half of my dry pollen substitute (Ultra Bee from Mann Lake) and make pollen patties.
In my research, I came across lots of recipes, some with only a few ingredients and some with lots of additives like essential oils. I really liked the recipe I’m sharing with you because it is simple and I had all the ingredients. One thing I did add was some sea salt because I know that bees need that just like we do.
Pollen Patty Recipe
Note: You can break it down into smaller quantities using those math skills you learned in school.
- 6.5 lbs. Hot Water
- 16 lbs. Sugar
- 1.5 C Vegetable Oil
- 10 lbs. Dry Pollen Substitute (I use Ultra Bee)
- 1 Tbls Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt
- Wax Paper
- Place all ingredients in a bucket or large bin (like a Rubbermaid container) and mix until completely combined. It will look a lot like peanut butter cookie batter mixed with pumpkin. (mmmm)
- Tear several 10-inch sheets of wax paper and set aside. You will make 30-45 patties depending on how thick you make them.
- Drop two large spoonfuls of mixture onto half of the wax paper sheet
- Fold the paper in half and press down to spread the mixture. Use a rolling pin to smooth it out. You’ll get the hang of it. I like them fairly thin (about 1/4 inch thick).
- When you are finished, place them in stacks and store in a container or bag in the freezer if you aren’t using them within a week.
- To use, simply place the patty on top of the frames of your brood chamber. When the bees have eaten it all, give them another until their numbers are strong and the nectar flow has begun.
Write down when you gave them the patty and then how long it took them to consume it all. Keep track of this information to help in planning for years to come.