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
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.