Feeding Bees With Real Food - Honey and Pollen

| 1/16/2012 10:03:28 AM

I’m going to take a break from the organizational bent I’ve been on, and toss out some thoughts on feeding bees, that, like you, need to eat every day, all year long. Now I’m not talking about feeding sugar water in the spring or fall, or protein of some sort – man made or bee collected - at the same time… no, I’m talking about providing the raw material for your honey bee colony…honey and pollen.

Mostly, we think that the bees know best and will find what they need, when they need it, and when it’s available. That’s mostly true. Most years, most places. But in all honesty it’s a crap shoot on honey crops. Drought, rain, farming practices, that new mall, herbicides, removing fence rows, late freezes, early freezes…all these can, and routinely do mess up a honey flow, and a honey crop.

You can take the attitude that it’s in God’s hands, and that’s how it should be, or you can take measure of the local conditions and move your bees to a better spot, or you can babysit those colonies with sugar syrup and protein patties so they have something to eat. Those are been pretty much the three choices beekeepers have. Unless you reconsider.

Yes, you can provide for your bees to overcome every one of these nutritional inconveniences. Here’s how.

If you had complete control over what grows on, say a five acre plot, you could support as many as 20 colonies just on that land. It takes an acre of land, constantly in bloom, to support a colony for a season. One acre, one colony. Unless. Yes, unless there’s more blooming on that acre than a single crop. Consider for instance a fence row crop of early maples and willows blooming, followed by dandelions, then a stand of locust trees at the far end of the lot blooming followed by apple and other fruit trees on another fence row, followed by tulip poplars, then a cover crop of clover comes into bloom at the same time as a big crop of honeysuckle then sumac all kick in. These are followed by more clovers, holly, cotoneasters, Bee Bee trees, another clover…well, you see the plan here. On a single acre, with careful planning, there will always be two, three even more things blooming at once…that one colony one acre suddenly becomes three or four colonies one acre for the whole season.

This single red dosier dogwood provides lots of food good wildlife cover and a screen to bootLook at it this way. That acre isn’t a single dimension…flat. It has ground cover, shrubs and trees, all blooming at once, or all blooming some time during the season, thus providing more than a single crop at the same time…more flowers, more bees supported. So, no matter what happens during the season, some crops will bloom, some will deal with the rain, the drought, the cold and the heat. Your bees will always have something to eat. Something real to eat.

Maria Carter
2/28/2012 3:02:32 PM

This is rather a very serious matter and would ask that many people respond to this please. We farm, conventional at the moment and are looking into organic farming practices. My grandfather was a excellent beekeeper in his day and we know something about beekeeping as well. The bees have been disappearing. We are in the northern part of the US. Also, the USDA was up here researching why the deer population has decreased a lot as well. Our take...GMO in the corn. We have learned as well that the larger beekeepers are using corn syrup to feed their bees. Could this be why the collapse of the colonies? There is something very wrong here and we cannot figure out why beekeepers aren't talking more about this? There is the study on the deer population and going on so time will tell.

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