Recipe for dry pollen substitute

The addition of vitamin C is optional, but many beekeepers believe it encourages the bees to consume the pollen substitute. The mix can be put in an open feeder (such as a birdfeeder) in early spring when the bees are flying but not much is in bloom.

Dry pollen substitute

Serves Many
Prep time 15 minutes
Allergy Milk, Soy
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Meal type Side Dish, Snack
Misc Pre-preparable
Occasion Spring, Winter
For beekeepers who prefer to feed dry pollen substitute instead of patties.

Ingredients

  • 3 Parts soy flour
  • 1 Part brewer's yeast
  • 1 Part dry milk (instant or non-instant baker's milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vitamin C (for every 6 cups of mixture)

Note

It is best to measure these ingredients by weight instead of volume. For example, if you use three pounds of soy, use one pound of yeast and one pound of dry milk.

Directions

Step 1
Put the the first three ingredients in a bowl.
Step 2
Take some vitamin C tablets and crush into a powder.
Step 3
Add one teaspoon of crushed vitamin C for every six cups of mix.
Step 4
Thoroughly combine the ingredients.
Step 5
In the winter, the dry mix can sprinkled on the top bars or put in a feeder above the brood box. In the early spring, the mix can be placed in a bird feeder near the hive.

Comments

Nancy
Reply

Rusty,

Isn’t Vitamin C just citric acid? It’s sold with canning supplies in powdered form. Would the measure be the same? I think it has some sugar added but that wouldn’t hurt.

At our meeting Monday, three of our beekeepers mentioned seeing bees at their bird feeders during last week’s warm spell, and the senior guy said they would feed on cornmeal or corn dust in the birdseed. I have seen them around spilled sweetfeed but I thought it was the molasses they were after.

I am just hoping the Water Maples are out as soon as the bees are.

Nan

Rusty
Reply

Hi Nan,

Vitamin C is closely related to ascorbic acid, not citric acid. I say closely related because ascorbic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin C and they are not identical.

Bees will collect powder of all kinds, even spores from fungus and concrete dust. It is up to the nurse bees to decide if the powder brought in has any value to it.

chris
Reply

What kind of brewer’s yeast?

Rusty
Reply

Saccharomyces cerevisiae in powdered form.

Jean Howard
Reply

I always wonder if this type of feeding is really necessary…it has always been my thought that the bees don’t really need us. We take care of them the best we can…help keep the hive nice, fresh water nearby, monitor the health of the colony and help when possible, but they really can get all their needs from nature. How do you all feel?

Rusty
Reply

Jean,

I feel that can get all they need from nature as long as we haven’t screwed up the “nature” they have access to. We can’t assume it has the same value to bees as before we mucked with it by changing the floral composition, using herbicides, changing the climate, lining it with roads, or any number of things. It will depend on the individual situation.

Jean
Reply

Thank you, Rusty! :) I appreciate you answering my concern….i know there is truth to what you say…unfortunately. I have been keeping bees for nine years, and overall the bees seem weaker than when i first started keeping them. I have 6 hives. I am also a cut flower farmer in Mathews Co., Va. I sell my flowers, honey, some veggies and herbs at local farmers markets. I try to take good care of my bees and feel i usually succeed, but have to watch what i do closely, trying to make some dollars and sense of it all too!

Jean Howard
Reply

Hey . . . I am new to the site, and I see my picture is a strange little bug! :) How do I change my picture . . . I have looked around a little and can’t seem to find the answer. Thanks!

Rusty
Reply

Jean,

You can get a Gravatar, which is a picture you select which will appear automatically when you post a comment. You can get it here: https://en.gravatar.com/. However, I will soon be taking down the “little monsters” (due to complaints) and will replace them with something boring like colored squares.

Jean
Reply

Oh…thanks! I thought it was like some sites where you can enter a custom picture.

phil gladding
Reply

Rusty: Different subject. Being a new beekeeper here in Northern Mi. I made a VERY quick check (1/14) on my 2 hives and noticed that the bees ate fondant prior to eating their own stores of honey. Is this normal? Just wondering. Phil

Rusty
Reply

Phil,

Ha! Very good question. Bees adore pure sugar and I’ve never seen a hive that didn’t eat the sugar first. In fact, it makes it hard to tell if they have any honey remaining, since they gobble down the sugar as if there were no choice. I cannot tell you why this is, but it is a fact. However, sugar contains much less ash than honey, which means eating sugar can prevent honey bee dysentery (diarrhea).

michelle michaud
Reply

Must it be active yeast? Can one use the by-product of fermentation from beer? I.e. dead yeast? I know this sounds crazy but nothing you can’t handle. :)

Rusty
Reply

Michelle,

As a long-time beer brewer, I will take a stab at this. I do not believe it needs to be active. In fact, I never filter my beer because all those little dead yeast bodies at the bottom of the bottle are extremely nutritious, especially high in all the B vitamins (and probably bee vitamins as well). If you do not drink the slurry at the bottom, you are not getting all the health benefits of beer! So, I will try to research this point, but my hunch is the bees will benefit from yeast, dead or alive.

Julian King
Reply

Hi Rusty
Could I just put real pollen into the fondant cakes I have on the hives at the moment? I am thinking of mixing a small amount of pollen in, with a little tree tree oil and vit. C and using it as substitute to the fondant.

Rusty
Reply

Absolutely, real pollen is best. Most people don’t have any so a substitute comes in handy.

Michelle
Reply

Okay, I’ve been doing research about this brewer’s yeast issue. If I use dead yeast from a brew it would have alcohol in it. Therefore I would need to cook the alcohol off before feeding it back to bees. I could probably do so by spreading out in a pan in the oven at low temp.

On the other hand, finding that particular strain of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in bulk, in my area is not possible. But they do have a general “distiller’s yeast” in one pound packs for $6.99. That is affordable and local. Do you think that would work?

Rusty
Reply

Michelle,

Most brewers yeast, bread yeast, and wine yeast are different strains of the same species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Any of the strains would work for this purpose. You can try restaurant supply stores, brewers supply stores, health food stores, and you can certainly find it online. I read online that distillers yeast is just another strain of S. cerevisiae, so that should work.

Also, alcohol evaporates quickly. You can just leave the dregs spread out at room temperature a few hours and most of the alcohol will leave.

Michelle
Reply

You are the bomb.

Rusty
Reply

We need to get together, drink home brew and talk bees!

Leslie
Reply

Rusty,

I just wanted to mention that folks should be aware of genetically modified ingredients for bee feeding. Most soy (about 90% in the US), most corn, and increasing amounts of sugar beet (not cane) are genetically modified to include systemic pesticides like BT. Also because of modification to make these crops “round-up ready” it is likely that these staple crops are sprayed heavily with glyphosate, which is one of the pesticide currently being found harmful to bees. If I were to use any of these, I’d make sure they are organic, which isn’t 100% free of GM material, but would be much less so, and at least would contain much lower pesticide residue (about 5 times less, in recent studies). Sorry to be a downer, but I though people should at least think about it.

Rusty
Reply

Leslie,

This is pretty much true, except that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and systemic pesticides are not the same. They act similarly on the insect, but in a genetically modified organism, a gene—such as one from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)—is spliced into the DNA of the plant. The gene produces a protein that is toxic to insects. On the other hand, a systemic pesticide is applied outside the plant and is taken up by the plant’s vascular system and distributed throughout. The systemic pesticide is in the plant, but not part of its genetic structure. Very different.

The other issue here is that organic sugar should not be fed to bees. The sugar itself is not the problem, but the way it is processed allows it to retain too much ash. As such, it can cause honey bee dysentery. You can read the details here: Is organic sugar better for bees?

The issues surrounding pesticides, GMOs, organic agriculture, and responsible beekeeping are complex. We are just beginning to understand the potential for complication and we are nowhere near a workable solution.

Chris
Reply

How do you get the bees to take the dry pollen? When I’ve tried it I’ve placed it in a bucket laid on it’s side with a large hole in the cover. I spray it with honey bee healthy and the bees just fly right by, even when I put it a few feet from the hive. I’ve avoided pollen patties because I’ve read that in the south SHB go crazy on them.

Rusty
Reply

Chris,

I just sprinkle it on a board or picnic table, and they collect every last crumb. But bees won’t collect pollen if they don’t need it, so maybe your bees have enough. In the winter I use pollen patties. Make them small so they get used up before the beetles find them, and don’t leave them in there if the bees aren’t interested.

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