Winterization 2011 pt 6

Pollen and Winter Bees

What role does pollen play in the spring/summer/fall?:  Pollen is a very important part of honeybee health. It is their almost only source of protein in the bee diet and is a primary component of bee bread or brood food.

–          Spring: Pollen is an important part of honeybee development between 2 and 21days. Just as important, it is an indicator of the external environments progession through the seasons. Within the beehive, the bees live in relative darkness, and most of their understanding of what is growing outside the hive is strictly dependant on what the worker bees are bringing in. This goes for the queen too! So, if in the early parts of spring, the bees begin to bring in pollen, it is a trigger for the queen to start laying eggs. The environments production of pollen stands as a testament that summer is fast approaching and the food that will be available for the hive will soon be at their disposal. So, when beekeepers place pollen patties in the beehive, what they are doing is tricking the beehive in to thinking that outside the hive, there are flowers popping their heads out of the snow already. This causes for a longer season for the beekeeper and a stronger foraging work force when the nectar flow comes on in 2 months. This is cause spring build up. There is a risk that the beekeeper takes in putting pollen patties in the hive in the spring, and it is the lack of knowledge of the honey store surplus available to the bees in the hive and the highly unreliable weather that is to come in the following months. It has happened where a beekeeper has put in pollen patties too early and the bees starved out because there weren’t enough food stores to feed the growing and expanding hive population.

–          Summer: As said before, pollen is integral to the development of young bees, and so pollen is needed throughout the summer months to be fed to the young. It is during the summer months though that the bees store surplus pollen in the hive to be saved for the fall and spring months to come.

–          Fall: Pollen is very important to the development of healthy winter bees.” Winter bees live a lot longer (100+ d) than summer bees (~30 d) The trigger colonies use to switch from summer to winter bee production is unknown, but a leading hypothesis is that it is simply the cessation of brood rearing in the fall. Nursing, after all, is hard work and the bees born into a nest with no nursing jobs have it easy and live longer. Although the verdict on the trigger is still out, it is clear that winter bees differ physically: “newly emerged bees that overwinter have significantly greater dry weight, protein, fat, triglycerides, glycogen and glucose content  than bees that do not survive to winter” (http://www.capabees.com/main/files/pdf/winteringpdf.pdf)

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