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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Tucson, Arizona » Carl Hayden Bee Research Center » Research » Research Project #445801

Research Project: Year Two of a Comprehensive Assessment of Honey Bee Pollen Substitutes

Location: Carl Hayden Bee Research Center

Project Number: 2022-21000-022-068-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Oct 1, 2023
End Date: Sep 30, 2024

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. We hope to reconcile some of these challenges. We propose a second year of work on a multiyear trial of different commercial supplements. Our goal is to provide beekeepers with a comprehensive assessment of how bee feeds compare throughout the year and under their local conditions.

Four commercial diets will be tested (UltraBee, AP23, Global Patties 4%, BeePro, and MegaBee), a natural corbicular pollen patty will be used as a positive control (Global base with 75% pollen), and no pollen patty will also be tested. Each treatment group will contain >60 replicate hives (strong, disease-free, queenright) distributed across 2 apiaries/yards. The trial will begin shortly after the honey is removed from the hives in August. All hives will be evaluated for strength (frames of bees) and health in August (pre-feed). More detailed data (bee frame coverage, brood, food stores) will be obtained from a smaller subset of these hives in early August. Samples will be obtained from these 120 hives to assess disease (mites, Nosema) and bee tissue nutrients (total lipids and protein). The hives will start receiving the supplements immediately after the pre-feed assessments. One pound of diet will be applied weekly from mid-August through the end of September (5 weeks) to all hives. At the end of September, identical post-feed assessments will be performed and samples will be obtained for analysis. The hives will be transported to cold storage at the beginning of October. In January, hives will be removed from cold storage, assessed as above. A final assessment will happen as described above during the almond bloom in early February.