Malcolm’s Topical Tips – 2020 Feb 25

“FEED a pollen supplement NOW” - by Malcolm Wilkie

Below you will see a picture of the pollen supplement that I use to feed my bees. Now is the time of year when Queens are beginning to lay eggs and there is some brood hatching. Colonies are desperate for fresh pollen but with this wet weather they cannot get out to forage. This is particularly the case if you have your colony in a cold, or windy, or exposed, or damp site.

Below you will see a picture of how I prepare my pollen patty. Unlike fondant, which I place above the crown board, I roll out my pollen patty as if it were pastry.

Try and get the patty as thin as possible. This is because I am going to remove the crown board, smoke the bees down and lay the patty directly onto the frames. I then squidge the crown board down and replace the roof.

I roll out the pollen patty on top of parchment paper. I liberally sprinkle the parchment paper with fresh icing sugar and this enables me to use a rolling pin without too much of the patty getting stuck to the pin.

If you have a small colony or a nuc they will not cope with a whole patty. Don’t bother to separate the parchment paper from the patty - the bees will chuck it out themselves. 

Colonies do vary in size and you will only be able to make the correct decision about how large a patty to give once you remove the crown board. The colony below is not as large as I would like and did not get a whole patty.

The nuc below is not one that I thought would be doing well. The bees chucked out Lesley’s marked queen only a month ago so I am assuming that perfect supersedure happened in the autumn and that there have been two Queens in this small nuc. When we last looked in September the only brood was a small circle and there were barely 2 frames of bees. So the picture below is amazing considering....

Of course I did not look through the colonies. But with the nuc above I did put the cellotex dummy board to the outside of the nuc and I placed the outside frame next to the bees. It looks like they might need the space! A polystyrene nuc box placed in a good sunny sheltered site with a young vigourous queen seems to overwinter well.

No doubt many of you will be curious why I bother to roll the pollen patty out and place it on top of the frames. With a super strong colony there is probably no need to do this. However with a small colony like the one pictured above, or with a nuc, it really makes a difference. The uptake of the patty if done this way is always excellent.

Finally if you were really mean with your bees last autumn and did not feed them, then you must heft your hive and must put on fondant.

Below is a picture of my bees munching on fondant. Colonies collapse in March if there is no food in their box!

Malcolm Wilkie - 25th February 2020

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