We feed our bees pollen in the form of pollen patties for two reasons: 1) To get the queen laying in late winter, around mid-February, so that the colony’s population is at a healthy level when spring arrives. 2) To give a nuc colony the boost it needs throughout the summer so that it can go into winter, again, with a healthy population of bees. (We also feed our nucs sugar syrup throughout our cool, short summers.) We wouldn’t feed our bees pollen or sugar if Mother Nature could provide for them all year round. But Mother Nature is a cruel mistress in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Spring often doesn’t make an appearance until the end of June. So it’s a no-brainer: We feed them. (July 11/13 addendum: But don’t overfed them.)
Do an online search for “How to make pollen patties,” and you’ll find more than a few methods and recipes for pollen patties. The following is our method, not necessarily the best method, but probably one of the easiest, which is why I like it. We fed our bees with these pollen patties last year and everything was okay. (But feel free to let me know if I’m doing something I shouldn’t.) Here’s a video that shows exactly how it’s done:
Mix thick sugar syrup with pollen supplement powder (we use Bee Pro Pollen Supplement that we get from Bee Maid) until it’s like Play-Doh, dry but doughy. Spread it out flat on wax paper, cut it into patties and lay it over the top bars in your hive with the wax paper. Sometimes I add real pollen in the form of pellets to the mix, but I forgot to do it during the video.
P.S.: Another title for this post could be How to Make Sugar Syrup. The first part of the video demonstrates the process. But for those who came in late, here’s a summary: In the spring, the sugar syrup mixture is a light 1:1 mixture (1 part sugar, 1 part sugar). For feeding nucs and topping off the hives before winter, it’s 2:1 (2 parts sugar, 1 part water, or even thicker). Add a small amount of anise extract to give the syrup that extra jolt that compels the bees dig into it. See Don’t Feed Your Bees Grocery Store Honey for a little more info.
P.S. (Feb. 16/12): Check out Dry Sugar Check Up and Pollen Patties to see how I added the pollen patties.
ADDENDUM (Nov. 12/13): Read Pollen patties: when and why? from Honey Bee Suite for more info on why the bees need pollen, when and if to provide pollen patties, etc.
NOV. 30/15: I’ve learned that it’s not a bad idea to wrap the pollen patties in wax paper, top and bottom. It helps to prevent the patty from drying out. A few slits in the wax paper will give the bees access. I also spray down my dry patties with sugar syrup to moisten them. The extra moisture isn’t a problem for hives that have moisture quilts or quilt boxes installed.