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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » Carl Hayden Bee Research Center » Research » Research Project #439155

Research Project: A Comprehensive Assessment of Honey Bee Pollen Substitutes

Location: Carl Hayden Bee Research Center

Project Number: 2022-21000-022-018-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jan 27, 2021
End Date: Jul 31, 2022

Despite many studies relating bee protein supplements/substitutes to bee health, we still lack a good understanding of how these different diets compare to each other. The reason for this may be that such studies are costly and require a skilled workforce to conduct the work. Given a finite amount of labor, expertise, and funds, many experiments can only study two diets or suffer from lack of statistical power and low sample size. Second, most trials are limited to a period of one year or less and, therefore, do not capture year-to-year differences. It is difficult to determine whether results from one year will extend to another year with only one year’s worth of data. Last, most trials are conducted in only one geographic location. Beekeeping practices and hive dynamics vary with region, and so the results obtained from one trial in one location may not translate to another location. Here, we hope to reconcile some of these challenges. We propose a multi-year, multi-location trial of several different protein supplements. Our goal is to provide beekeepers with a comprehensive assessment of how bee feeds compare throughout the year and under their local conditions. This agreement covers the work conducted in the first year, with an eye toward a total of three years of study.

Design: We will test four diets (UltraBee, AP23, Global Patties, and a new diet developed by Shafir and Wright). Additional diets can be incorporated according to beekeeper/stakeholder input. In addition to these four feeds, one set of hives will receive natural corbicular pollen patty (positive control) and another set of hives will receive diet only if it is required for the hive to survive (negative control). Each of the six treatment groups will have 10 hive replicates. Due to the cost of performing these assays, we propose a step-wise approach for testing these diets. In the first year, we will conduct the trials only in Tucson, Arizona, USA. In the second and third years, we will conduct the trials another location (Davis, California, USA) if the data from year 1 provides a compelling reason to do so. Hives and feeding regime: The hives will start as splits or nucs in the late spring, headed by a European queen. The hives will grow in the summer, reaching at least the size of a strong single deep by the fall, when the feeding trials will commence. Feed will be added weekly throughout the entire year as long as the hives are consuming the diet. (Hives typically ignore supplemental diets if floral resources are available or if brood rearing slows or ceases.) Hives will be provided with a pre-weighed quarter pound patty to start, with additional quarter pound patties added every two to three days as needed. Sugar syrup will be provided as needed. We will note if any hives die during the course of the year. Dead hives will be replaced with nucs in the spring. These replacement nucs will build over the spring and summer, joining the next round of the experiment in the fall. Measurements: Consumption will be measured weekly when applicable. Hive-level measurements of brood area, weight (of the entire hive, including foragers), frames of honey, and adult population (frames or seams of bees) will be conducted monthly between early spring and late fall (February through November). In the months of December and January, only adult population (frames or seams of bees) and weight will be measured. Nosema will be measured quarterly (February, May, August, and November). Varroa will be measured monthly from February to November using sugar shakes.