Easy Pollen Feeders
Late winter is a challenging time for bees. If winter temperatures have fluctuated between over 40F temperatures, when bees can fly and below 40F, when bees cluster, bees may have used up their honey stores by January and run the risk of starvation.
At the same time, late winter means the queen bee has been slowly laying. She starts when daylight starts to extend at the winter solstice Dec. 21, adding more mouths to feed.
In addition to supplemental feeding in the “eke,” an added top shim, I monitor February temperatures and may give them a little supplemental pollen feeding to help them get a good strong spring start. I watch the weather forecast and note when temperatures may be over 50F for 10 days to provide the food. Pollen is what worker bees need to feed newly-hatching bees.
There are a number of pollen feeders on the market; even more you can make yourself out of PVC pipes and plastic paint buckets. I have found the plastic plant pots work well for me especially the ones with many holes on the bottom.
To ensure the plant pots don’t fall off their tree stump stands, I add a large rock at the front to hold the pots down. The rocks also give bees a place to land and to safely stage their takeoffs when their pollen baskets are full.
I don’t feed the Pollen substitute for long, there usually is a 2-3 week period between the end of cold weather and the beginning of floral sources in nature. Supplemental feeding encourages more egg-laying and that can mean the colony will run out of room before you can get into it to add supers and may swarm so monitoring colonies is important.
I also enjoy sitting close by and watching the bees as they come in and leave. If you are a new beekeeper, this is a good opportunity to observe your bees.