The protein requirements for honey bees (part one)

posted in: Nutrition | 1

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An increasing number of beekeepers are starting to realize the vital importance of protein in the context of honey bees nutrition. While a few years ago the sugar syrup was considered the way to go when resources are low, nowadays it is seen as totally inefficient without providing a quality protein source as well. We can go as far as saying that this was the biggest step forward in honey bees nutrition in the last few years. Understanding the nutritional requirements of the honey bee is a vital part of any beekeeper’s knowledge base.

Protein has some vital implications in the development of a colony, be it in the form of pollen or a protein supplement. We will describe some of them below.

1. The honey bee’s immune system response to viruses and pathogens is highly dependent on receiving the appropriate protein.

A study supporting this claim was made in 210 by the Tucson laboratory. Scientists have measured the presence of the virus that causes the deforming of the wings of newly hatched bees and placed them in special cages. They were then fed 3 different types of food: one group didn’t receive any protein at all, the second was fed a protein from pollen substitute and the third received natural pollen as the protein source. The results were staggering: the level of infestation with the virus was 700 times higher for the group that didn’t receive any protein, was almost zero for the second and completely absent for the third. This study showed the massive importance of protein for newly hatched bees.

2. During spring and summer, the average life span of the adult honey bee free from Varroa and Nosema Apis is 36 days.

The life span of infested individuals is even shorter. Therefore, the entire colony is renewed completely once every five weeks. This means that approximately one kg worth of honey bees must be raised every week just to maintain the population at a steady level. Extrapolating, we come to the conclusion that the colony requires one kg of pollen per week just to sustain its current population (according to a study by Rashad the pollen/bee ratio is 1:1).

3. In order to overwinter in good conditions, the colony must have large resources of pollen at the end of the summer and during autumn so the bees can form their fat bodies. Also, the colony must have enough protein to feed the brood in the middle of the winter season.

Taking into account the above mentioned aspects, it is clear that protein is a crucial component of the bee’s nutrition and the lack of it leads to major negative consequences. Because it is extremely difficult to ensure natural pollen resources (the optimal protein source) through the entire year, it is often required for the beekeeper to intervene and provide a protein supplement. The question now is how to come up with a pollen substitute that closely resembles the bee’s natural protein source. After going through dozens of studies and tests, we were able to gain a pretty solid understanding of the particularities of the bee’s protein requirements. In the following article we will talk more about these findings, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media.


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