Evaluating Late Summer Pollen Substitutes on the Growth and Overwintering Success of Honey Bee Colonies and Analyzing Natural Fall Pollen Nutrition in Nova Scotia, Canada

Thursday 4 February 2021

Fresh, new ATTTA publication! Read below to find out more about the effect of feeding late summer pollen substitutes in our region in a recently published paper by the ATTTA team. This research, performed 2018-2020, reveals significant results! This work provides an important evaluation of economic and biological advantages, specific to our region, of the use of pollen substitute.

Perennia has an upcoming webinar all about supporting wild bees! Keep reading below for details and registration.

Evaluating Late Summer Pollen Substitutes on the Growth and Overwintering Success of Honey Bee Colonies and Analyzing Natural Fall Pollen Nutrition in Nova Scotia, Canada *

It is well known that when these resources are abundantly available, nectar and pollen provide honey bees with their nutritional requirements. Nectar provides bees with carbohydrates and pollen provides proteins and amino acids.  These are particularly important for strong and successful brood rearing and therefore overall colony growth. If these resources are in short supply, it is common for beekeepers to substitutes these essential nutrients with the aim to increase colony growth and, ultimately, overwintering success. This research by ATTTA investigates how pollen substitutes in late summer translates to colony growth and overwintering success in our region.

In 2018, research colonies were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Nutra Bee TM, Ultra Bee TM, or control (no pollen substitute fed). However, due to unforeseen limitations, in 2019, colonies were randomly assigned to one of two groups: Ultra Bee TM, or control. Colonies were fed and monitored according to a set schedule and standardized protocols to determine how these late summer pollen substitutes contributed to colony growth and overwintering success. Pollen traps were also installed in some colonies to allow for analysis of natural pollen that the bees were collecting in the late summer months. Interestingly, results from 2018 revealed no significant difference in colony growth or overwintering success between colonies fed late summer pollen substitutes and control colonies exempt from feeding. Still more intriguing, results from 2019 showed colonies fed Ultra Bee TM grew significantly less than control colonies fed no pollen substitute. Analysis of naturally collected pollen from the installed pollen traps indicate that all 10 amino acids essential to honey bees were available on the landscape, however, not all in sufficient quantities to adequately support honey bee growth. The conclusion drawn by ATTTA from these results is, “…there does not seem to be an economic or biological advantage to feeding honey bee colonies pollen substitute in the late summer under typical Maritime (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island) beekeeping conditions when there is an abundance of natural pollen available at this time.” * However, it is important to note the key word in this conclusion is, “typical” and under certain conditions there may be an advantage to feeding pollen substitutes.  This is where the art of beekeeping comes into play with experienced beekeepers deciding what is best for their bees, in their areas under local, seasonal conditions.

*McCallum, R., Olmstead, S., Shaw, J., & Harrison, J. (2020). Evaluating late summer pollen substitutes on the growth and overwintering success of honey bee colonies and analyzing natural fall pollen nutrition in Nova Scotia, Canada, Journal of the Acadian Entomological Society, full text available online.

"Supporting Wild Bees" Webinar

Mark your calendars: February 18th at 1:30pm!

We have an exciting webinar coming up on "Supporting Wild Bees" with guest speaker Dr. Nancy McLean, Assistant Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Dalhousie University's Faulty of Agriculture. 

This webinar is presented by the Nova Scotia Agri-Environmental Program (AEP) in partnership with the Clean Annapolis River Project.

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