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Research Update: Following Pollen Substitute Patties in a Honey Bee Colony

The UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory conducted a research project that led to a publication on pollen substitutes. Below is a summary of the research as well as a link to the full publication.

Photo Credit: Amy Vu, UF IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory

Purpose:
The purpose of this research project was to evaluate how honey bees distribute pollen substitute patties throughout their colonies.

Key Findings:

  1. A proportion of adult worker bees ingest pollen substitute patty, however they do not feed it directly to the larvae, store it as bee bread, or eject it as debris.
  2. While adult worker bees do ingest the pollen substitute patties, the patties do not completely replace natural pollen in terms of function.
  3. Timing of using pollen substitute patties should respond to colony need for a protein source, as evidence suggests these patties are consumed almost immediately and not used for long term storage.

Photo Credit: Emily Noordyke, UF IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory

Significance:
Pollen is an important source of nutrients for the honey bee diet, and bees need high amounts of good quality pollen to support colony growth and brood development. Poor quality or low quantities of pollen can affect healthy brood growth and make the colony more susceptible to pests and diseases. As a beekeeper it is vital to monitor pollen and ensure colony nutrition. Additionally, commercial beekeepers spend a significant amount of money and labor on the use of pollen substitutes, so it is important to examine the effectiveness of this practice.

For more details, read the publication here: https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toab083

This blog post was written by UF IFAS Honey Bee Lab Intern Kara Parham and revised by Amy Vu and Emily Noordyke

Emily R Noordyke, Edzard van Santen, James D Ellis, Tracing the Fate of Pollen Substitute Patties in Western Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Colonies, Journal of Economic Entomology, 2021;, toab083, https://doi.org/10.1093/jee/toab083