protein necessarily better in a bee diet? Not
necessarily. What matters is what you pay for what
protein you get. What may be more important than protein
content is knowing what else is in the diet and
whether those other ingredients are actually good for bees.
Here is some comment from
the BEE-L discussion group.
mention below of non-nutrient and anti-nutrient content
of some feeds is of special interest since so much
discussion tends to emphasize the positive -- protein
content -- compared to potential negatives --
yeast motioned in a previous message will IMO not be a good
yeast for bees no matter what you do. It has a very low
protein level and consequently can be assumed to have -- in
all likelihood -- a high level of non-nutrients or even
anti-nutrients and toxins. Best to buy the yeast from a
beekeeper or bee supply, not an animal feed store. Farm
animals and chickens have entirely different needs from
Suitable yeasts have typical protein levels well over 40%.
Make sure the supplies are fresh. Do not use flours more
than a few months old.
The reason for seeking high protein levels in yeasts and
flours is that protein is the major ingredient required
and a high protein level simply means less of all the
other things we do not need, and which can depending
on amount, be harmful or just useless filer like fibre, ash,
esters, non-digestible sugars, starches, etc.
Protein level in the finished product is not particularly
meaningful if we use high protein ingredients, since the
dilutents are ones we add and which we know to be necessary
and important bee nutrients like sucrose or glucose/fructose
Note: Oils, including essential ones can be toxic
when fed in more than low amounts. One important oil
popularly used has been shown to be toxic when present
in amounts over 2%. Oils also become rancid quickly and
become toxic if the supplement is not used immediately.
that 20% protein levels in supplements are better than lower
levels comes from pollen studies where
lower protein pollens were found to be much less effective
bee food than higher protein pollens. This stands to reason
in pollens, since the lower the protein percentage, the more
non-protein (and probably non-nutrient or anti-nutrient)
components need be consumed to get the required absolute
amount of protein. These non-protein components may, worst
case, be toxic and best case, a filler.
This reasoning does not apply to supplements, though.
In supplements, the non-protein ingredients (beyond whatever
rides along in the yeasts or flours) is sugar or water and
we know these are nutrients which bees will be consuming
anyhow, not junk in the diet.
Therefore, in supplements, the percentage of protein
in the final mix is more an indication of value for money
than anything else. Example: A 20% mix at $ 2.00 per pound
should compare to a 15% mix at $1.50 per pound in efficacy,
assuming that each has the same profile of non-protein
ingredients and the water and sugar levels account for the
difference. Keep in mind though that sugar is not free, so
maybe the 15% mix should be valued up at $1.75, say.
Florida, I spent time recently with several beekeepers
and a bee nutrition expert of note. Interestingly, they
are using a high sugar patty to encourage fast
consumption due to hive beetle. The mix is 80% sugar and
20% yeast, plus whatever water is needed. They are quite
happy with this.
I also spoke to Hack last summer at EAS and he sent me
his formula with permission to post it. For those not on
BEE-L, here it is. This is not a recommendation.
Hack's Protein Patty Recipe
1. 125 lbs. Sugar (Add water and keep wet.
Should be a little thicker than pancake batter.)
2. Add either 3 cups citric acid or 4 quarts of lemon
juice, (this is to put the ph at 4 ½ to 5)
3. Add 1 cup Honey Bee Healthy (optional , but we
4. Add ½ bag Vitamins & Electrolytes (we use Russell’s)
(2 oz. worth)
5. Add 10 lbs. pollen (optional)
(keep the mix wet)
6. Mix in 25 lbs. of Inedible Dries eggs
7. Add 3 ½ cups Canola Oil
8. Mix in 24 lbs. (2 gallons) Honey
9. Finish by adding 50 lbs. Brewtech Brewers Yeast and
water until it has the consistency you desire.
some nutrient analyses done, I have to wonder if they are
much more than a marketing tool. We get the numbers for
nutrients we ask for, but what the numbers really mean is a
good question, since what we do not get is probably much
more meaningful. For example, the protein numbers don't tell
us how they break down and bioavailability, and carbohydrate
numbers don't give detail unless we ask. Of course the more
items and detail in an analysis, the more it costs.
Other than worries about potential honey contaminants,
I suppose the proof is in the pudding, i.e.. how the bees do
in the short run, and long run. Comparisons are helpful, but
very difficult to do.
Using unnamed and non-food components, salts, or
essential oil-type ingredients in patties can have
unintended consequences due to potential contamination
of honey. Some time back, I heard talk of a situation
where a beekeeper or beekeepers were thought by a packer
to have been using a prohibited repellent due to traces
in the honey of compounds from the breakdown of some
supplement ingredients. (One of the largest, best-known
proprietary feeds was involved. It has since changed).
I don't know how it was resolved, and I don't think the
honey was condemned, but we are now entering times where
increased scrutiny of foods is routine and unthinkably
tiny amounts of contaminants can be detected. Even if
detection does not result in condemnation of honey, it
reduces the potential market and price.
Some beekeepers have tended to be very cavalier about
what they put into beehives, but the days of flying
under the radar may be over soon.
what you are saying here. If you are saying
comparisons are easy, I suppose you are right.
I'll agree that it is usually not too hard to prove what
people want to believe, especially to an uncritical
What I was trying to say was that honest, valid comparisons
are very difficult unless there are huge and obvious and
repeatable differences, and no outside influences, which
usually there are not.
I have observed scientific comparisons of feed formulas and
seen how many confounding factors can skew the results.
I have run a few studies myself and found every time that
many unexpected things can intervene, potentially
influencing the results.
Some of us have considered how best to do independent tests
to compare the many products on the market and concluded
that getting fresh, typical samples and applying them to
comparable hives under a variety of conditions is no small
Most subs work now, even some which were pretty poor in the
past. The questions now are
ones give best value for the money and
* which ones are safe to use in honey producing hives