How I Used to Make Pollen Patties

It’s April 2019. I’ve shortened and simplified this post from 2012. Here we go:

I feed my bees patties of pollen supplement or pollen substitute to get the queen laying early in the year so that the colony’s population is at a healthy level when spring arrives. By early in the year, I mean late winter (or February and March in Newfoundland). I usually only give pollen patties to weak colonies, but I’ll give them to strong colonies as well if I plan to make splits from them.

I also feed my nucs pollen patties for first month after they arrive (usually around mid-July in Newfoundland), but that’s not a common practice. Many backyard beekeepers don’t feed their bees pollen patties for any reason at any time of the year. Overfeeding an established colony, whether pollen patties or sugar syrup, can easily create colonies so big that they swarm the first chance they get. And often the bees won’t touch pollen patties once they’re able to bring in real pollen from flowering plants. They chew up the patties and then toss the little bits out of the hive like they would with any kind of debris. So in that case, adding pollen patties creates house-cleaning work for the bees but for no benefit.

Here’s a video of me making some pollen patties — in a way that I probably wouldn’t make them today:

In the video, I mix thick sugar syrup with pollen supplement powder called Bee Pro Pollen Supplement that I used to get from Bee Maid. These days I just order pre-made pollen patties from a local supplier because it’s cheaper than shipping them in from Manitoba and it’s easier than making the patties myself.

However, if I had cheap and easy access to the pollen supplement powder, I would make the patties like I do in the video, except I’d make them much wetter and I would make sure to sandwich the patties between parchment paper to maintain that moisture, and when I add the patties to the hives, I would scratch an X through the paper on the bottom to give the bees a place to start digging in.

Pollen patties wrapped in plastic. (Jan. 27, 2012.)

Pollen patties wrapped in plastic. (Jan. 27, 2012.)

“The availability of pollen or pollen substitute to the colony increases the production of brood. Because of an enriched diet, the nurses are able to secrete lots of royal jelly. So they prepare cells for eggs and the queen deposits them. Suddenly, brood production is in full swing.”

That’s from Rusty Burlew at Honey Bee Suite. I suggest reading that article for all the nitty gritty details and explanations that I skimmed over in this post.

7 thoughts on “How I Used to Make Pollen Patties

  1. hi I’m in N.S. and i am wondering if you still use the same patties recipe as in the video
    another question i got for you is have you tried feeding patties from fall to a week hive ?
    my main problem i keep seeing repeating is the lack of bee’s to produce lots of wax so that they can multiply into a large colony

    • Dan, I suppose you could say I still use the same recipe for my pollen patties. I mix powdered pollen supplement with sugar syrup and a bit of anise extract, nothing too complicated. I used to throw in some real pollen when I had it, but I can’t be bothered anymore. My bees never seem to be short on real pollen, anyway. There’s always pollen somewhere in the hive, but placing the patties right above the brood nest — above the top bars — makes it easier for the bees to get at it while the weather is still cold.

      I don’t precisely understand the rest of your comment, but to reiterate what I said in this post, I add pollen patties in the late winter (even though I’m not convinced it’s necessary). I also give pollen patties to nucs if the bees will take it. They don’t always take it. I don’t think that’s a common practice, but I’ve done many times times and, at least in my neck of the woods, it seems to give small colonies a boost so they’re strong going into winter.

      I’m not sure what you mean by the bees not producing wax so they can multiply. I could be wrong, and I often am, but I’ve never heard of pollen, or pollen patties, having anything to do with wax production. Feeding the bees sugar syrup can trigger wax production, not pollen patties. You can feed the bees sugar syrup which gives them the resources to build wax comb and subsequently more room for the queen to lay and thus multiply.

      I’m not sure I answered your questions, but there go. Good luck.

      • lol ty i believe you have answered my questions even if they ware poorly done as questions
        the second one if i am correct is you don’t believe in feeding pollen patties from fall to spring but i could be mistaken

        the last question was it seems like i keep getting poor genetics or something cause i feed theme sugar water all summer and it still seems like they don’t build enough wax comb for the queen to lay a lot

        • Correct, Dan, I don’t feed pollen patties from the fall to the spring. The earliest I feed pollen is in the late winter. But I know some beekeepers who add what some call “Candy Boards” to their hives just as winter sets in, and pollen is often mixed in with the candy. It would take me a while to explain why I don’t do that, but the bottom line is I don’t think it’s necessary, and it may even be bad for the bees to give them solid food (pollen) when it’s too cold for them to perform cleansing flights.

          • sounds good to me its what i was thinking glad to see I’m on the right page
            I’m glad i found you lol its pretty hard to find info on honey bee’s in our part of the world i just need to find some really good stock
            keep up the good work i love your video’s

  2. I was wondering if you would provide the measurements of the ingredients used to make your pollen patties. Their consistency is better than some I’ve seen. Thank you.

    • Hi Linda — I don’t have the exact measurements. I add sugar syrup to the powdered pollen supplement until it’s a consistency that seems right. Somewhere in the video I provide approximate measurements, but again, I’m working without a net most of the time, though I’d aim for wet patties over dry if I could.

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