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Fall Feeding of Protein Patties
for Better Wintering and Better Spring Build-up

Is Fall feeding of protein patties beneficial?

The jury is still out, but reports from commercial beekeepers in Southern Alberta seem to indicate that overwintering success may be greatly improved and that the colony condition the next Spring may be much better.

We're hoping to run tests to prove that, but, in the meantime, why not give Fall feeding a try?  One obvious benefit is that Fall patties will show you, within a week or two, which colonies are queenless.  Queenless colonies don't eat their patties.  This simple test can save you a lot of work, and spare your colonies the stress of an examination.

As with many beekeeping best practices, benefits of patty feeding are sometime hard to prove.  Often, the proof is just a gut feeling, or knowing that other, successful beekeepers find it worthwhile.  

Feeding is like insurance.  Some years, the Fall flows may be good enough that the improvements from feeding are minimal, but other years, the Fall feed may make the difference between 50% wintering loss and 10% loss.  It is impossible to know in advance, and equally hard to prove afterwards.  Fortunately the cost of throwing on a patty or two is very low, so the risk/reward ratio is high.

It does seem obvious, though that protein feeding in Fall could be a big help in areas where there is little pollen, or only a few kinds, or in big wintering yards.  For pollination, particularly, yards of 40 to 70 are common, and some hives are subject to drifting of foragers or lose out to strong competition from others.  I used to run 20 to a yard and figured that they did better when I ran less, so I think feeding should help big yards stay more even.

Here is the abstract of an article that seems to support what some beekeepers have concluded, however, there is much more to do before we have absolute proof -- if we ever do.


Author, Editor, Inventor: PENG-Y-S {a}; MARSTON-J-M; KAFTANOGLU-O
Author Address: {a} DEP ENTOMOL, UNIV CALIF, DAVIS, CALIF 95616
Source: Journal-of-Economic-Entomology. 1984; 77 (3): 632-636.
Publication Year: 1984
Document Type: Article-
ISSN (International Standard Serial Number): 0022-0493

Abstract: To determine the effect of feeding on A. mellifera L. populations and the economic value of feeding colonies for spring production of package-bees, a feeding experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of feeding time and feeding treatments on the A. mellifera population, and to compare the cost with the benefit of feeding. Colonies produced significantly more bees from fall feeding than from spring feeding or continuous feeding from fall to spring (P < 0.01; analysis of variance). Colonies fed with protein supplement containing 21% protein from Torula yeast and/or syrup also produced significantly more bees than unfed control colonies (P < 0.05; Duncan's multiple range test). Colonies fed with 1/3 the amount of protein supplement in the fall had the potential to yield high adult bee populations and a net gain in production of package-bees. Feeding sugar syrup in spring was less profitable than feeding protein supplement in fall.

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