First printed in ABJ September 2021
Some analysis establishments keep away from the testing of name-brand merchandise for apparent causes, and a few commerce magazines received’t publish articles that may offend their advertisers. We beekeepers are lucky that Dadant & Sons and the American Bee Journal enable me to objectively write about merchandise that they might produce or promote. I preserve full impartiality in my trials, and let the info communicate for itself. My sons and I, who rely on beekeeping for our livelihood, are simply as within the outcomes as are you my readers.
MOVING ON FROM THE MIDPOINT ASSESSMENT
Just about any synthetic weight loss plan might be of profit to the bees within the quick time period, however the true check is the way it performs over the long run. I occur to stay in a panorama that gives an prolonged dearth interval (August by way of mid-January), thus permitting me to actually put diets to the check in free-flying colonies.
In contrast to in areas that present an autumn pollen movement — which permit colonies to retailer pollen as beebread to supply for winter upkeep or late-winter broodrearing — there was just about no fall pollen movement in my check yards, so there was an absence of saved beebread going into the winter.
Sensible utility: My earlier article left off on the midpoint evaluation, which served as a standing report as to how the substitute diets had ready the colonies for winter. Since bees don’t retailer patty-fed pollen sub within the combs, that implies that the check colonies had been almost completely depending on the examined diets for the event of the all-important fats our bodies of the “winter bees.” After which the late-winter resumption of brood rearing would even be dependent upon the fed diets till the primary tree pollens grew to become accessible.
REINITIATION OF FEEDING AFTER THE WINTER BREAK
Let’s overview the timeline of the trial (Determine 1):
Fig. 1 The above chart exhibits the timings of feedings and gradings, in addition to the prevalence of two pure pollen flows (the thistle movement occurred in solely two of the yards; yard H acquired 2 feedings [red] throughout that point). We carried out ultimate grading previous to the emergence of any bees that would have developed in the course of the alder movement.
Experimental design: This trial ran for 175 days (8 potential brood cycles), throughout which the predominant sources of meals for every of the 144 colonies had been the substitute diets (aside from the shock 10-day pollen movement from thistle in two of the three check yards).
RESUMPTION OF FEEDING
Because the climate cooled in early November, the check colonies went into winter cluster and ceased rearing brood. They consumed the final of their fed sub the primary week of November. After a month in winter cluster, temperatures warmed sufficient for the bees to begin flying once more, so we resumed feeding on December 15.
At the moment there was appreciable disparity in colony energy (largely correlated with weight loss plan kind), with the stronger colonies (not unexpectedly) consuming their fed patties extra quickly.
Experimental determination: For the reason that colonies in some remedy teams had been stronger in December, these bigger colonies, not unexpectedly, consumed extra meals. So slightly than feeding all hives equally — which might have restricted the growth of the stronger colonies — we checked weekly, and gave every colony as a lot patty as they might eat. As an alternative of eradicating and weighing any as-yet-unconsumed patty, we merely recorded how a lot they ate till ultimate grading (Determine 2).
Fig. 2 The explanation that I run feeding trials over the winter, is that you simply actually see the outcomes when the colonies begin to develop once more because the climate warms (on this case, beginning in mid-December). In contrast to patty consumption throughout summer time, the quantities consumed throughout late-winter buildup seemed to be largely a perform of colony energy, with the bigger, faster-growing colonies consuming higher quantities of the fed diets.
Sensible utility: In contrast to the final lack of relationship between August colony energy and November energy (see Determine 2 within the accompanying article), there was a transparent correlation (R2 = 0.38, not proven) between November cluster measurement and the February grading for colony energy.
RESULTS: LATE-WINTER BUILDUP PRIOR TO ALMOND POLLINATION
The interval between our reinitiation of feeding and the beginning of the alder bloom gave the diets three weeks to affect colony buildup earlier than the primary pure pollen grew to become accessible. This is a crucial consideration with regard to discipline trials of pollen subs, as identified by Stanger and Laidlaw [] again in 1974:
Due to this fact, this work indicated that there’s worth in feeding throughout October by way of January previous the almond bloom in California to supply colonies with higher populations for more practical almond pollination, however that feeding of pollen, pollen dietary supplements, or pollen substitute just isn’t useful after the spring pollen movement begins.
Sensible utility: I discovered the identical in my discipline trial of pollen subs in 2013 []. So by performing ultimate grading at 20 days after the graduation of the alder pollen movement, we’re capable of tease out the good thing about synthetic feeding earlier than it was affected by the prevalence of the pollen movement (since no staff that may have benefitted from the alder movement would have had time to emerge and have an effect on the cluster measurement).
Comparability between November and February cluster sizes, by weight loss plan kind
Each beekeeper notices that there’s usually a big colony-to-colony variation in efficiency in any group of hives, and this discipline trial was no exception. However common values for every check group doesn’t inform the entire story. So slightly than supplying you with a bunch of means and commonplace errors, enable me to current the uncooked knowledge for all 133 hives nonetheless alive on the finish of the trial, color-coded by weight loss plan kind, evaluating every colony’s February energy to that on the November grading. Take a while to take a look at the distribution of the coloured knowledge factors for every weight loss plan kind (Determine 3).
Fig. 3 Cluster measurement in February relative to that in November (many knowledge factors overlap); the trendline signifies no change in energy: colonies that grew are above the black trendline, those who shrunk lie beneath. In each weight loss plan group there have been good and poor performers. Focus upon the vertical distances of the info factors above or beneath the “No change” indicator line. On common, the Homebrew and International colonies grew in energy — the remainder of the weight loss plan teams had colonies scattered above and beneath the road throughout this anticipated buildup interval.
Sensible utility: Colony development previous to almonds had quite a bit to do with overwintering cluster measurement. Colonies to the left (indicating a smaller winter cluster measurement) had been typically unable to extend in energy to any extent in the course of the buildup interval (as indicated by their knowledge factors being beneath the road). However, those who went into winter with barely bigger clusters (to the proper) had been usually capable of develop quickly (their knowledge factors being properly above the road), notably some particular person hives from the Homebrew, International, AP23, and Bulk Delicate weight loss plan teams. I think that such vigorous development additionally indicated a higher dietary worth of these diets.
Notice that the above outcomes might sound opposite to these of the widely-cited examine of late-season pollen supplementation by Mattila and Otis []. That examine was carried out in an space through which there was a powerful autumn pollen movement — a totally completely different state of affairs than that in lots of areas of California. On this discipline trial, the colonies benefitted each from autumn feeding (which allowed them to enter winter with a bigger cluster measurement), in addition to from late-winter feeding (just like the findings of Mattila and Otis in one other examine []).
No colonies suffered “Colony Collapse” on account of insufficient varroa administration. Fewer than 3% of those often-stressed hives exhibited “queen failure” over the course of an almost 6-month trial. The overall colony loss charge was 9% (Determine 4).
Fig. 4 Just one colony had perished by the midpoint. On the ultimate February grading, I outlined a “colony loss” asthose both having died aside from on account of going queenless, or nonetheless queenright however with lower than one body interspace stuffed with bees (3 colonies).
Sensible utility: Not surprisingly, colony loss correlated intently with general colony efficiency by weight loss plan kind.
RESULTS OF 1 FEBRUARY GRADING
Adjustments in colony energy over the long run
From our standpoint, what makes us cash are the variety of frames coated with bees (cluster measurement) after we lease the hives for almond pollination. So let’s see how the colony cluster sizes tracked for every weight loss plan kind, in every of the three check yards, over all the six-month course of the trial.
Sensible utility: This may enable us to see whether or not the outcomes had been constant from yard to yard.
With a view to keep away from any bias in censoring colonies that went queenless or had different well being points, for every yard I merely censored out an an identical variety of the poorest-performing hives from every remedy group.
This is similar yard through which we ran final yr’s pollen sub trial, so we didn’t anticipate the transient nectar and pollen movement from star thistle in early August (Determine 5). In any case, we stocked this yard probably the most closely (72 hives), in order that the colonies can be strongly competing for the scant quantity of pure pollen coming in from the panorama in late summer time and fall.
Fig. 5 As anticipated, the sugar-fed Management colonies went downhill, thus confirming the good thing about feeding pollen sub underneath these circumstances. The good thing about November cluster measurement is obvious, permitting the bigger clusters to develop extra quickly throughout late-winter buildup (evaluate the pitches of the upward slopes). Solely the Wholesome Bee and Sugar controls had been unable to develop.
The second replicate, Yard T, was a similar-elevation yard through which colonies had carried out poorly the final two years. We positioned 40 hives there (Determine 6). This yard additionally loved the transient star thistle pollen movement.
Fig. 6 Much like Yard E, the significance of winter cluster measurement was obvious. Homebrew hives took off, with International lagging a bit on this yard. Notice how badly the Wholesome Bee and Sugar Controls plummeted in energy.
For the third replicate, I positioned 32 hives in my higher-elevation house yard (Determine 7), competing with a bunch of different experimental colonies. Our house yard hives actually profit from the feeding of pollen sub, and did not benefit from an August pollen movement. This yard bought fed when the opposite yards nonetheless had unconsumed sub on them.
Fig. 7 Yard H was probably the most nutritionally pressured — the Sugar Controls and Wholesome Bee colonies nosedived, with half of the Management colonies dwindling to dying. The yard didn’t profit from the August star thistle pollen movement, however was fed an extra 2 lbs. of pollen sub as an alternative. Total, there was much less August-November lack of energy in comparison with the opposite yards, however conversely, much less acquire throughout late-winter buildup (Homebrew, AP23, and International a minimum of held their very own). Regardless of the general lack of colony development, evaluate the putting distinction in efficiency between the very best diets and the poorest.
Sensible utility: The relative performances of the diets had been remarkably constant from yard to yard, indicating that we are able to draw conclusions from the info. The take house message seems to be that some diets constantly outperformed others. The higher diets allowed some teams to enter winter with heavier our bodies and bigger winter clusters, thus setting them up with the power to construct up extra quickly upon recommencement of late-winter feeding, dependent once more upon the dietary worth of the weight loss plan fed.
COLONIES MAKING GRADE FOR ALMONDS
I broke down the colony energy assessments to see what number of hives in every check group of 18 made a minimum of 4.5-frame energy on 1 February — assuming that since that they had loads of sealed brood after the alder bloom, that they’d develop to a minimum of 6 frames by grading date within the orchards (Determine 8).
Fig. 8 This yr our colonies throughout the board had been weaker than regular; these within the pollen sub trial had been no exception. From the above knowledge, one may conclude that pollen sub efficiency is all about whether or not they include pure pollen, however in my subsequent installment I’ll present that that could be mere coincidence.
Sensible utility: After almost six months on synthetic diets, solely 2 out of 18 colonies within the Management group made 5-frame energy come February, in comparison with 15 out of 18 within the best-performing diets. Though this trial was run in an atmosphere having a brief and comparatively heat winter, it clearly exhibits the good thing about dietary supplementation.
In a variety of our almond pollination contracts, we receives a commission by colony energy, based mostly upon the grading of 10% of the hives. Our minimal required cluster energy for any hive is 5 frames of bees. If the graders hit a hive weaker than that, we don’t receives a commission for 10 hives, so we usually don’t hassle to take any weak hives right down to the orchards. However, as with many Western beekeepers, we had been tight on sturdy colonies this yr, and hauled down something that in early February appeared as if it could develop to a minimum of 6 frames by grading time. Previous to grading, we popped open all of our hives, and boosted any weak ones (Determine 9).
Fig. 9 Eric and Ian, upfront of grading, are boosting weak colonies with frames of bees from the strongest hives (which retains them from swarming). After we’re getting over $200 per hive, we determine that it’s definitely worth the labor.
In gentle of the above, maybe probably the most simple approach to consider the efficiency of the substitute diets can be to easily add up what number of rentable frames of bees in whole we bought from the 18 hives in every check group (Determine 10).
Fig. 10 Our revenue is predicated upon what number of frames of bees (FOB) we are able to lease in almonds after which later promote as nucs. There have been 133 rentable FOB within the 18 hives in Homebrew group, in comparison with solely 38 frames within the Controls.
Sensible utility: The 133 FOB within the Homebrew group earned us $3,242 in almonds, whereas the 38 FOB within the Management group returned solely $804. I did the maths for a cost-benefit evaluation; the higher subs returned round $5 (above the Management group) in almonds for each greenback spent on the patties. However that was not counting labor, which on this case was extreme, as a result of twelve feedings. In observe, we usually feed 2½-lb. patties two to 3 instances.
Many Western almond pollinators transfer their colonies to raised pasture throughout summer time (as did I for 20 years). However such pasture is getting tougher to search out (particularly throughout our extended drought). So with a purpose to construct our colonies up for almond pollination, a few of us rely on feeding pollen subs (synthetic diets). However I notice that not each beekeeper pollinates almonds, or experiences pollen dearths. It’s as much as the beekeeper to resolve whether or not it’s cost-effective to feed pollen sub of their operation.
Anyway, this trial was not about attempting to persuade anybody to feed pollen sub, however slightly to check the dietary values of the substitute diets available on the market.
It’s not about “winners” vs. “losers”
I’ve trepidation about working this type of “Client Report” trial of the merchandise of various producers, with whom I like to take care of pleasant relationships (and who I respect for cooperating with me on this trial). Through the course of the trial I lamented to my helpers that if it appeared as if there was just one “winner,” then that may indicate that the opposite seven merchandise had been “losers.”
Sensible consideration: This trial was in regards to the long-term feeding of synthetic diets. For individuals who want to feed solely a spherical or two of pollen sub, any dietary deficiencies will not be obvious within the quick time period.
I definitely wasn’t aiming to embarrass any producer, and was stunned by the comparatively poor performances of two of the subs. In my earlier testing (managed and casual), Extremely Bee ranked very excessive (though in our personal operation we choose its sister product, Bulk Delicate). One chance for the change is that the producer just lately switched one of many components (I requested, since we seen the distinction in look). So far as Wholesome Bee, I strongly suspect that the excessive degree of thyme oil within the formulation that I examined was an issue. Each producers are addressing the problems.
As I’ve mentioned, my sons and I spend some huge cash on pollen sub, and we simply needed to see whether or not there have been considerable variations in efficiency between the merchandise available on the market. To take action, we fed the check hives for almost six months on the substitute diets, with a purpose to see whether or not any nutrient deficiencies may turn out to be obvious. We weren’t rooting for any explicit merchandise, and our findings are hardly the final phrase. However what we did discover is that the performances of the subs, relative to one another, had been pretty constant from yard to yard, and that some diets outperformed the others. So the Large Query is, why?
Subsequent month I’ll delve into the dietary evaluation of the subs. The 2 prime performers had one thing in frequent aside from having pure pollen of their formulations. I’ll present how we maybe might need predicted their efficiency from their analyses. However most significantly, for the good thing about producers and beekeepers anyplace, I’ll present a helpful calculator within the hope that everybody can enhance their pollen sub formulations.
This analysis was funded by donations by beekeepers, which permit me to carry out these costly discipline trials. And we must always all thank the producers for donating the patties for the trial. I thank all for his or her assist! I additionally want to thank beekeeper Peter Borst, who assisted me tremendously in library analysis.
 Stanger,W & H Laidlaw (1974) Supplemental feeding of honeybees (Apis mellifera Linnaeus). Am. Bee J. 114: 138 -141.
 Mattila, HR & GW Otis (2007) Dwindling pollen sources set off the transition to broodless populations of long-lived honeybees every autumn. Ecological Entomology 32: 496–505.
 Mattila, HR & GW Otis (2006) Affect of pollen weight loss plan in spring on growth of honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies. J. Econ. Entomol. 99(3): 604-613.