Randy Oliver – Honeybee Nutrition (Part 3)

Honeybee Nutrition

by Randy Oliver

Part 3

Reasons To Feed Protein Supplement

We talked about Protein Supp, and then I get all these emails and phone calls from Recreational Beekeepers. I think, Oh, yeah, I should just start, how much should I feed? Should I just keep feeding all the time, you know, is this something that matters? There’s no magic in Feed. And my Basic advice is, if you don’t understand exactly why you’re doing something, don’t do anything, just leave it alone. Okay, you will probably do more harm than good by just doing something because somebody told you to do something. Just leave it alone.

Other than Varroa between you, stay on Varroa [Inaudible]. I’ll tell you right now, Varroa will kill them all, so no doubt about that. But other than that, why do you do everything cause somebody told you to? So, here’s some reason you may want to feed Pollen Sub.

To Rejuvenate Colony Age Structure

And for the age, you notice that when the pollen drop off, the age structure of the colony suddenly gets older. If you keep Russian bees and you’re in California, and in August they stop breeding brood, then all the bees in the hive start aging. There’s no turnover, we don’t have any more young bees. You put in Pollen Subs, suddenly the recruitment of young bees, and you shift the age structure down, so instead of all the bees being a hundred [100] days old, now they’re your bees are twenty [20] days old. That’s a whole different population, so you Shift the Age Structure in the hive. You can Shift it, if you’re mitigating a shortage of natural pollen coming in.

To Increase Colony Immuno-competence

Protein are critical for immunocompetence, it’s against Nosema, against the viruses transmitted by varroa. So to increase the immunocompetence of it would be a reason.

If it’s raining, and during rainy weather I treat my bees better than I treat my own children, here’s my own children. And, and when it’s rainy and miserable, the only difference in our beekeeping is the clothing we wear. We bring, and what we had to get, we had to go out-of-state, and you cannot buy this rain suits in California, because our Environmental Protection Law. Which I support, are so strict that this the [Inaudible] tarp part, best rain coat can’t be sold in California. I don’t know what it is. So, we just buy good rain gear, and that, if you’re gonna be a beekeeper. Somebody asked me, I said this last night also. They said, Randy, you feed your bees when it’s raining and snowing? You feed your bees?
And I said, Well, duh, because when it’s sunny they feed themselves.

That’s called Bee Keeping, your job as a Beekeeper is when bees have problems then you keep the bees, which means you work in rainy, nasty weather. That’s the most important time and we’re out feeding Pollen Subs during the rainy rainy weather.

Hungry Colonies Refrain From Buildup

If there’s a break in the rain, sugar stimulation or if necessary, if they don’t, if they have nothing good, or they don’t have any fresh sugar. Sugar, [Inaudible] Stimulation will keep them building up on that Honey Growth Period. Otherwise you’re gonna lose that Honey Growth Period, and you’re not gonna make as much honey during the Summer.

Feed Protein To Mitigate Stress

If you get stress from pesticide stress, you’re gonna lose the bees. So, you feed them at stress point.
This is old stuff, you can go back to the old literature back in the sixties [1960’s] and stuff, and the seventies [1970’s], when pesticide really was a huge issue. And you get Pesticide Issues now; you can have no idea how pesticides used to be an issue for bees. For, I mean, the whole yard would be an inch deep in rotting bees, it was terrible. I mean, we don’t have any kind of issues like that anymore. So these are rare issues that you should get a severe Bee Kill from Pesticides.

Anyway, all the literature that [Inaudible], you get Pesticide [Inaudible], give them protein, cause they’re gonna regroup the whole new generation to secure and take care of them.

Feed Sugar Between Nectar Flows

Also the bees deal with the Pesticide Stress between Nectar Flows you’ve the pollen coming in, so if you have, like in California and Nevada we have times when there’s pollen coming in, and there’s no nectar coming in. That’s not [Inaudible] to pollen, so you take a little bit of nectar to keep them stimulated, to keep them rearing a brood.

June 2012 Starve Out In Fair Weather

This is – this is in June, during our drought, normally June, I mean, we’re making honey. I mean, good honey. I put a [Inaudible] out there, and the weather was clear, the weather was nice. But there’s so little nectar coming in that we had, I’d go out to the yards, and it was like a [Inaudible] cycle. We don’t [Inaudible] that’s my area. And I put [Inaudible] and they had [Inaudible] from starvation [Inaudible], because they just. What I expected them to be building weight wise like they do in a normal year, and they didn’t. And they just lived [Inaudible] out and strong colonies, and boy, you get, and [Inaudible] were expecting them to provide it, and it didn’t do that for a couple of days. And [Inaudible] you get starvation right in the hives. So it would have taken just, it didn’t kill the hives.
But you could see the break in brood rearing, due to that. So, in one yard [Inaudible] structure would have prevented that.

Lead Time For Build Up Prior To A Honey Flow Or Paid Pollination

If you’ve got Paid Pollination coming out, you’ve got Honey Flow coming out, you want to, if you want to build your colonies up, and there’s not enough natural forage coming in. Feed them at that point. It takes about sixty [60] days once the bee produces and is established to reach hive Maximum population. This is a linear Growth Period. Any time there is a break in there, you’ve got rain or lack of protein availability, protein.

Maintain Buildup Momemtum

What we call is, Maintaining, we call it an [Inaudible]. An analogy I got is I live next to the longest continuous Railroad grade on the Planet Earth. Okay, that’s in California on the West [Inaudible] area of Nevada, it’s the longest continuous climb for a train anywhere on the Planet. And if at any place on that climb the train stops, it’s hard to get the momentum going. It’s an analogy is to your bee colony. Keep the momentum; if you lose momentum, it’s hard to get the colony going again.

Minimum six [6] to eight [8] weeks before a Honey Flow. The bees that are foragers or gonna be foragers, it takes three [3] weeks for them, from the time the egg is laid till they emerge, and they’re not gonna be foragers, until like they’re like fifteen [15] twenty [20] days old. So, that means that any eggs laid after six [6] weeks prior to the Flow are not gonna be helping you much with the Honey Crop. So, you want to be thinking about what’s happening on your calendar, six [6], to eight [8], to ten [10] weeks prior to the Honey Flow. And that’s when you need to be building your bees up.

Quality Pollen Is Critical For Good Wintering and Early Spring Build Up

And then for good Wintering, this is California, my this is my yard. My home, back when it used to snow in California, four [4] years ago. We haven’t seen this white stuff in a few years. But before the bees go into here, you need to get them in really good shape Nutritionally.

Okay, you want to, when you go into Winter; you want to have this band of beebread underneath the Brood Nest. So when the, so in the middle of Winter when they start Brooding up, before there’s pollen coming in, that they can work down, and start getting to that beebread.

Strong Heavy Hives Winter Better

Plenty of weight, when we go into Winter, and we don’t have a severe Winter like you do. But going into Winter and Almond Pollination, if I pop the lid of a hive in late Fall, I don’t want to hear or see a single bee. I want those bees down low in the box, in a very quiet dense cluster with a bunch of honey sitting on top of them. If I open that lid, and I see bees at the top, or I hear any bees, that colony has got a problem. Bees Winter best in that quiet cluster with plenty of honey above them, and beebread stored below them.

Unrealistic Expectations

They’re put in large Holding Yards; this would be a tiny holding yard. Nothing out there to bloom, they’re feeding it with sugar syrup, which gives the foragers the message, that maybe there might be something out to look for. They go out, their fruitless foraging, they wear themselves out. The Colony population goes down. You don’t want to feed bees when they’re not wearing brood sugar syrup, because you get fruitless foraging, and you wear your bees out. They’re out looking for wherever that smell came from, and where that smoke comes from. The same smell is coming from? The entrance of every other hive. So, where are they gonna look for it? They’re going to try to rob it out of the next hive. Okay, you create situations.

Brutal Competition

Another Holding Yard, okay, you can see, I should take the name off here, cause this guy has some problems. But there’s nothing for the bees to eat there. In the morning, that sun comes out, and the Scouts go out. I mean, everything is cleaned up in the first [1st] two [2] minutes. There’s nothing else gonna be out there the rest of the day. And there’s places in California where you can throw a rock, and you can hit twenty – thirty thousand [20,000 to 30,000] hives by throwing a rock. It’s just, and we set up these situations.

Supplemental Feeding Protein

And in a situation, the beekeeper is gonna rat it by Supplement ally Feeding Protein. Now for any other form of livestock, and I’ve checked. If you have ostriches, or emu’s, or alligators, or ferrets, or you name it, there will be a Formula Diet that you can put those animals in a cage, and feed them nothing but that diet, and get generation after generation of healthy animals. The only major livestock that you can’t do that for is the Honey Bee. Nobody has yet come up with an artificial diet that you can get more than two [2] rounds of brood, before you fall off. There’s something missing in all of our artificial diets.

Components Of A Diet

1. Amount of Protein
2. Percentage Protein
3. Limiting Nutrients
Essential Amino Acids
Salts and Trace Elements
4. Phagostimulants
5. Phytochemicals?
6. Probiotics?

So, typically in a Diet, I’m not gonna read these for you, I will let you read this. These are the Basic Components in a Diet. And I will cover these in greater detail.

Only Two [2] Generations Solely On Artificial Feed

So, only two [2] generations of artificial feeds, so that’s the Holy Grail, the first [1st] guy who winded up getting more than two [2] generations of brood reduced on artificial diet is. If they’re a good marketer they can be rich. But they can turn our industry around.

Still Testing!

We’re testing all kinds of things. Lots of people are testing and these diets come out. And again, the question I will always ask is, let’s see the data. Field Trials are really expensive; they’re a pain of the butt. And I will show some soon.

Poor Brood Survival On Inadequate Supplements

Well, Frank Action [SP] did some monitoring of larvae survival. Typically at about ninety-five percent [95%] of the eggs that are laid, successfully reared to be an emerging worker. With when you’re feeding colonies some of the supplements that he was feeding, that dropped to sixty to fifty percent [60 to 50%] larvae survival. So, yeah, you’re feeding them, but you’re not getting the larvae survival. The way you tell is whether is the uniformity of the larvae. If the larvae, see all the larvae at different ages here? The reason they’re different ages, even though there’s a larvae in every cell, they’re dying, this telling you you have high larvae mortality. If you have good larvae survivorship, you have an even age distribution across those larvae, starting in the center, and going out. And they will be younger and younger going out. But you’ll see even aged larvae in the next of each other. If you see different age larvae next to each other, that means that those larvae died, and the Queen came back and laid.

Now in a small nucleus colony just starting, where the Queen doesn’t have room to lay, you will also that, so don’t go by that. But if you put a fresh comb in that nucleus colony then, and the Queen gets over there and starts laying, then you’ll see the uniform brood patterns. Does that make sense to you?

Percentage of Protein

Suggested Target = twenty-five percent [25%} protein in supplement. As percentage of sugar-free dry matter ? ? ? Suggested, now I’ve based, I did a lot of research a few years ago on Animal Diets. I’m not a trained Nutritionist, but I’ve looked at pretty carefully. Suggested Target – Twenty-five percent [25%] protein, and that’s the percentage of sugar-free dry matter. Somewhere like that in your diet. Somewhere around that range.

Proteins And Amino Acid Requirements Of The Honeybee [Apis Mellifica L.]

A guy named De Groot, back in nineteen fifty-three [1953] wrote the definitive paper on that, and nobody’s bothered to follow-up on it, since then. Which is pretty amazing for something this important. And what he came up with was, he came up with the Relative Quantities of the Amino Acids. This is the key thing, it’s relative quantities, it was a ratio. It was not a percentage. I see it constantly in literature and advertises where people misunderstand this, they think it’s supposed to be a percentage. It was a Ratio, he said the Ratio of these ten [10] Amino Acids to Tryptophan. He set Tryptophan arbitrarily at one [1]. Which means what you need is, if you so many grams of Tryptophan per a hundred [100] grams, you should have four [4] times that many grams of Valine. And one point eight [1.8] times as many grams of Phenylalanine in there. Now the problem is unfortunately De Groot made a decision that was unfortunate, that he used Tryptophan. The reason is that if you look at most Pollen Analyses, you can analyze all the other nine [9] Amino Acids pretty easily, and Tryptophan takes an extra test. So many Pollen Analyses do not include Tryptophan. So, it makes it hard to compare them.

So, what I did is I said, It’s time to re-look at this stuff. So, I took these ratios here, and I used Histidine, which as the target Amino Acid. And set the ratios relatively to Histidine. So that doesn’t make any difference, it’s just a different way of looking at it. So, I could include data that did not have Tryptophan in it.

De Groot Revised By Randy

I looked at Mean Amino Acid Ratio in Royal Jelly from different researchers who looked at that. You look at what’s the Perfect Diet for Bee Food; I would suspect you look at Royal Jelly first [1st]. So, those are – the Ratios are in the red bar for Royal Jelly. For Pollens, and for Pollens I looked at literature from all over the World, where they analyze pollens that beekeepers said, the bees do really well with this. Or, a lab has reared bees on various pollens, and they found like the best two [2] pollens for Bee Growth. I looked for pollens that had ideal Bee Growth. I put the Mean for the Amino Acid Ratio in the yellow bar there.

Now bees are not that unique, they’re living organisms. And when I looked at all the different Animal Nutrition Studies, not only for vertebrates, but for invertebrates or snails, or oysters, for other things. It’s the same for almost every other organism. They all have the same Amino Acid Ratio in those proteins. I put that in the blue right here. And then I put the Growth Ratios in the green. And I looked at it, and I said, Wow, based upon all these things, I have a Suggestive Ratio which are in the black.
I haven’t published these yet. So, if I were gonna do a Pollen Sub, I would use my Suggestive Ratios, which are pretty damn close to the growths almost everywhere. But I’d do a little less here, and little bit – and a little bit more of Lysine here. A little bit more of Phenylalanine right there to match closer to all these other ones. So, if all these are saying this, and De Groot had it down there.
I think probably De Groot made a little error on that one.

I also used, like I was down in Chili, I talked to the beekeepers there just recently. And they were looking at Pollen Sub. They were – they had ten [10] months with no rain down there. Their bees were really really hungry. And they were trying all kinds of things. And I said, Is this cost effective? So, I was just able to take this spreadsheet, punch in the formulation. Put it on here, and say, Wow, you’re way deficient in this one. Or, it’s costing you three [3] times as much for this – for the Protein, based upon on limiting Amino Acid for this Pollen Sub than the other one. So, they just – then there was email constantly, since I came back from Chili. And they’re testing out new things. They’re really happy, they’ve shifted all their feeding down there. So, it’s not hard to do.

Essential Amino Acids As Percent Of Crude Protein

Target Minimum forty percent [40%] EAA/Total Protein??? Then the question is, what’s your ratio of Essential Amino Acids? Cause there’s like twenty [20] Amino Acids. Only ten [10] that are Essential. That Ratio is important. And as a percent of the total Crude Protein, it looks like about forty percent [40%] minimum is what’s important. So, if you gave, if you feed bees with just nothing but the Essential Amino Acids, they go downhill. They need to also have other Crude Protein that is not the Essential Amino Acids. And it looks like about that forty percent [40%] or so is probably what you want to have.

Sterols Are Critical!!!

And Sterols, especially twenty-four [24] Methylene Cholesterol. To humans, we make all the Cholesterol we need in our own diet. Eating eggs does not raise your cholesterol level, okay. Your body makes its own cholesterol. Insects do not make cholesterol. Cholesterol is a vitamin to insects. They have to get it in their diet. There’s very little vegetable cholesterol or sterols out there, or cholesterols out there. The key one [1] for a honey bee is twenty-four [24] methylene cholesterol. Which is pretty high in an Almond pollen interestingly. Other sources, it’s really hard. They can take some grass sterol and convert a little bit into 24 methylene cholesterol. But really 24 methylene cholesterol is a, could very well be a critical [Inaudible] nutrient in many Pollen vats. So, I’ve looked all over trying to find a source of inexpensive 24 methylene cholesterol, and it’s just not out there. The best things I’ve seen are in egg yolk, or in corn or borage oils. They have low amounts of that.


Carbohydrates, beebread typically forty to sixty percent [40 to 60%] sugars. I’m guessing that that’s probably what we want to do. If you don’t know better, mimic Nature. Listen to the bees, okay. So, if the bees are eating, making a diet that’s forty to sixty percent [40 to 60%] sugar for their protein, probably that’s what we want to do too. And when I have experimented mixing different sugar ratios in my pollen sub, I run that fifty to sixty percent [50 to 60%] seems to be a good ratio in there.

Lipid Requirements

And you have Lipids, the fats. Average Lipid Content of Bee-Attractive Pollens is six to seven percent [6 to 7%] Typical bee attractive pollen is around six to seven percent [6 to 7%] Lipids. The most prevalent Lipids in Pollens are the Linoleic and the Linolenic and Palmitic Fatty Acids.

I’ve done a little bit of experimenting with these, and looked at the literature quite a bit. Rob Manning in Australia has done quite a bit of work on this. And haven’t come up with anything totally firm on that. I tend to use a mixture of Corn and a Canola Oil when I’m mixing up. But I’m not saying that that’s the best at all. I just did, I’m experimenting also with some Borge [SP] Oil, which is quite expensive.

The Total Lipid Concentration Within a Pollen Supplement Should Probably Be Between five and eight percent [5 and 8%]. Doug Somerville who wrote the book, Fat Bees Skinny Bees in Australia. He came up with something probably about five to eight percent [5 to 8%] Lipids in a Pollen Sub would be a target.


Then Phagostimulant, something that makes the bees want to eat it. I just ran a rough trial of one [1] of the new subs that’s on the market, compared to a standard one [1]. So, what we did I have seventy [70] colonies in a trial going right now, a Feeding Trial. So, we’re feeding them Pollen Subs. So, I simply took a new box of one [1] sub in one [1] pound patties. And a new box of the other one, cut the patties in half [1/2]. I gave every colony a half [1/2] of patty, and a half [1/2] of patty of the other. This does not tell me whether anything about the nutritional quality. But there was a clear preference for one brand over the other. So, that’s Phagostimulation, whether they eat. If they don’t eat it, it doesn’t help them.

Here are some of the Phagostimulants that have been added. This is a Lemongrass Oils, a common one. Natural Pollen is a big one. Rob Manning found that those two [2] were good, and also Rum is good. And that makes me curious, back to Steve here. The Rum, is that Rum, just because of the alcohol from the yeast fermenting. So, it occurred to me, I should run the experiment getting Rum Extract and Pure Ethanol [SP], and spiking Pollen Patties of the same type with Rum Extract and Ethanol. And see whether they like the Rum flavor or they like the Ethanol flavor?


Acidity, when they ferment the beebread with Lactic Acid, they drop it down to a pH of about four [4]. If you start testing things, and tasting it, you can be accurate within about one-half [1/2] a point on pH, just by the taste. Acids taste sour. Okay, so, you can check. So, typically, yeah, that Citric Acid to a Pollen Sub. Maybe we should be adding Lactic Acid, I don’t know.

Phyto Nutrients

Phyto Nutrients, this is a package I tried it, a Trial, where I added this. This is just a whole bunch of different plant Phytonutrients, and you can buy this in any Health Food Store. There’s lots of evidence that they probably helps with the Human Immune System. The Peacic Muric [SP] Acid, Mayor Burn Brown [SP] is working with that, finding it’s helpful for the Bee Immunity Response. So, some of these Phytonutrients might be really important. We’re just on the beginning of the Learning Curve of making good Bee Diets right now.

Other Components

And you have all these other – other things to put in. Oh, okay, that’s back to the Sterols, oh well; I didn’t get these right this morning. But I’m also three [3] hours earlier than California time. So, when I start working early in the morning, I’ve got an excuse.

The 24 Methylene Cholesterol in the Borage and Corn Oil, you see there’s almost none in any of the other’s. Oh, Sesame Oil, but the bees don’t tend to like Sesame Oil.