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Interesting read on protein needs of bees...

 
Michael Cox
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I'm not a big fan of feeding bees, and this document has a very commercial slant, but it is quite interesting to get a feel for the protein demands of our bees. Not something I have previously given much thought to.

One nice highlight:

Successful wintering is dependent upon the last rounds of bees emerging in the late summer/fall having adequate pollen available in the broodnest.



Fat Bees Part 1
Fat Bees Part 2

Any thoughts, and how would we implement anything from this in our hives, if we were trying to avoid feed based strategies?

Mike
 
David Livingston
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It was very interesting and definitly a £$€ mindset
I enjoyed reading this " Could nutritional or stress events affect subsequent behavior or immune function in a colony for an extended time? " I call fortnightly inspections a stress event

David
 
Burra Maluca
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Where I live, the pine and eucalyptus plantations are populated with hundreds of beehives over the summer to gather pollen. The hives are closely monitored and the pollen traps, which strip all the pollen from the bees' legs, are removed just long enough to allow the bees to gather enough pollen for their own use to provide the protein needed to keep themselves alive and replace their numbers, but very rarely enough to swarm. The bees don't produce much honey as they know that they need to devote their energies to collecting pollen to replace what is being taken from them.
 
Michael Cox
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Burra - are those pollen trap hives used to collect pollen for sale, or to supplement other colonies pollen stores?

I was wondering about pollen trapping myself, especially if you kept a colony on the edge of pollen hunger so they kept on working it. It seems like they usually are only bringing in pollen on an as-needed basis and their stores run down quickly. Collecting and freezing pollen through the year to feed back to your winter bees could be an interesting experiment, especially if winter protein levels have as significant an impact as suggested in that info.
 
Ludger Merkens
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Well definitely a commercial beekeeper,

but his conclusion is something, which points into a good direction:

It may be time for the beekeeping industry to shift its paradigm from managing boxes to really thinking about good husbandry of the critters inside. Think of each box as having a living animal inside. Don’t be afraid to invest in their nutrition, either by moving them to better pasture, or by feeding them in place.


My approach to investing in their nutrition would be: plant a good mix of bee forage plants - pollen matters!
But I see the dilemma of a conventional pro beekeeper - my approach is probably difficult to scale to several 1000 hives.

interesting read - thank you.
---Ludger
 
Michael Cox
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Paraphrasing slightly from those pages...

Bees can forage up to 3 miles, but forage is "economically viable" up to half a mile from the hive. This equates to about a square mile of land to manage for bee fodder. On this basis pretty much any individual planting is going to be essentially negligible compared to the wider availability of resources... with the possible exception of some trees with very good nectar flows (linden in my area for example), or small plantings that fill a specific nutritional gap at a particular time of year.

On that basis I find the idea of individuals planting "a lavender bush for the bees" rather laughable. If they really want to plant for the bees they need to put down half an acre and manage it so that some section of it is always in flower by selectively cutting it week by week. I'm not saying that thinking about bee forage isn't worthwhile, but that it is ultimately a secondary activity compared with other yields from the land.
 
Burra Maluca
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Michael Cox wrote: are those pollen trap hives used to collect pollen for sale, or to supplement other colonies pollen stores?


It's for sale as a food supplement. There's quite a market for 'Spanish Pollen', and the bees here are shipped in from Spain (we're near the border) and take the whole place over during the pollen run before being moved north.

Here's a photo of the hives, in case it's of interest. The traps weren't in place when I took this, but you get the idea. Simple hives, not too big, easily closable door, and a hinged lid which locks down for easy transport.

 
Michael Cox
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Interesting... and a good price tag on it too... $24 per lb was one figure I saw at a quick glance.


Some points from other sources:

We have always had good success collecting in the summer. We do not collect in late summer/fall. During humid months, you really should be collecting every day. A good hive for us produces approx. 1.5 lbs a day.


Another tip, do not be tempted to try and turn the trap "off and on" frequently thinking you will make it easier on the bees. This can stress the bees out. The bees sometimes need a week to get acclimated. Once they are collecting, keep it going for 2-4 weeks during a good pollen flow. You really don't have to worry about the bees not having enough pollen. Not all pollen is stripped, and once the hive detects that there is not enough pollen coming in, workers switch to pollen gathering from nectar to maintain the correct balance.


This is interesting to me as pollen could add another interesting yield to a small farm apiary. Pollen products tie in nicely to the value proposition of a permaculture establishment too... your regular produce shoppers may be interested in permi-pollen for consumption. It looks like there is some post-processing to do, specifically either freezing it or drying it.
 
Ludger Merkens
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Michael Cox wrote:
On that basis I find the idea of individuals planting "a lavender bush for the bees" rather laughable.


That probably would be laughable. I'm thinking of rebuilding hedges with a variety of flowering perennial shrubs and bushes. Integrating late flowering Trees into a food forest and doing some consulting with the local forester, as well as keeping this aspect in mind in any action in the garden. It is by no means limited to a zone 1 garden, or a small urban lot, but needs to be kept in mind when structuring zone 4 any beyond.

---Ludger
 
Michael Cox
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Pollen harvest... looks pretty neat!



 
David Livingston
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My partner takes pollen every day so there is obviously a market for it .
Reading this stuff I did have a think about transhumance of bees the permie way since the folks in California were ( are? ) getting 10$ a frame ,yup frame not hive for pollinisation . Having ten hives with ten frames in each a caravan or mobile home plus a seconary occupation such as writing , some artistic endevor or craft . gently travelling round ( at night ) a month here a month there selling the honey too . Just a thought .

David
 
Michael Cox
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David - my understanding is that those involved in the California Pollination game suffer pretty substantial losses each year and have a major expense in time and money building up numbers of colonies each year to meet their contracts. It would be nice to see a more permie solution to pollination contracts though.
 
Michael Cox
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Here is another interesting pollen product... Bee Bread.

It is the pollen once the bees have stored it in cells with nectar, and starts a natural fermentation process. It is supposed to be a probiotic with all sorts of goodies above and beyond raw pollen. It is extracted by shredding frozen brood comb. It seems to be even more valuable than raw pollen... ebay list £10 or more per 100g, compared to 500g of pollen for £9.00.

 
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