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Honey Bee Nutrition (a personal experiment)

Hey forum,

I wanted to share with you the incredibly positive results I found from a little experiment I did recently.

I was given the opportunity to keep bees on a bush site (NSW, Australia) with a huge variety of gums including ironbark, grey gum, spotted gum and blackbutt. All of which hold incredibly high-range nutritional value for bees (and highly sought after by commercial beeks). I believe I read somewhere that ironbark pollen is so rich in nutrition, that a colony feeding on an ironbark flow will have all disease eradicated (perhaps not all disease, like AFB).

I personally hadn’t yet had a proper introduction to the world of honey bee nutrition and the concept of different flowers offering different nutrition value was super intriguing to me (like comparing McDonalds to organic fresh produce, for bees).

I relocated 5 hives to the new site and all colonies were looking pretty grim. They had spent their last 2 years on a property with not enough sun, lived through a drought (for our area) and at the point of relocating showed signs of weakness throughout such as bald brood, sac brood, SHB, scattered brood patterns and mediocre bee numbers.

Last weekend was my first inspection, 4 weeks after relocating, and I was so blown away by the visible difference (I wish I took more photos). All hives were incredibly strong, some with having brood in all 8 frames, glorious brood patterns, no signs of disease or weakness and crazy amounts of honey.

The ironbark I believe has been flowering for the last few weeks and I believe they were also feeding off nearby Macadamia and something else that I couldn’t identify.

I would love to receive confirmation that my equation is correct i.e. the supercharged ironbark has boosted my colonies immunity to have cured all signs of disease. Or would that be too simple?

I would love to dive more into the world of honey bee nutrition and am getting the idea that the best people to talk to are commercial beekeepers, as healthy bees and strong forage = heaps more honey. But I would love to know more for the sake of sharing this knowledge with backyard beekeepers and support supercharged healthy honey bees.

Does anyone else have any thoughts, info, advice to offer on this?

I honestly can’t express how excited I was.

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Love this experiment! Also, ironbark honey is so tasty… I’m a big fan of the darker, fuller flavoured honeys. Look forward to reading the comments and further updates on this one.

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Wowza…that new location of your’s Bianca is loaded with bee resources!

When I was a commercial beekeeper, I was always fascinated by the variance of honey production from apiary yard to apiary yard. And over time I recognized that certain yards were prolific year after year…those locations were prized. In my area we have large monoculture crop acreages that yield nectar/pollen…but I was always careful to also place my hives so that they had one foot in native grass/bushland…two locales of forage. Like you, I became convinced that good nutrition resulted in populous hives resulting in better crop yields.

Even when nature cannot provide nutrition, I don’t hesitate to supplement. My impression is that in your area this supplementation isn’t as critical. In Canada & USA a lot of research has gone into pollen substitute formulation and this label on the outside of a box of pollen patties gives you an indication of nutritional requirements…notice the complexity of ingredients.

You state “sharing this knowledge with backyard beekeepers and support supercharged healthy honey bees”… I try to keep my hives supercharged when they aren’t in a dormant state. Hives destined for honey production I try to keep in “exploding mode” spring and summer. And I find a populous hive so much easier and pleasant to manage.

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I was counting on you to lend your knowledge here, Doug - and was meanwhile combing (sorry :laughing:) my browsing history for the fantastic lecture on this topic that I watched part of a few weeks ago. I believe the speaker was Kim Flottum.

Nutrition is such a crucial and foundational aspect of health, and yet easy to forget. Great post Bianca :+1:

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As a inexperienced beekeeper, I inadvertently starved my bees of protein one fall/winter. In the spring they started to brood up…but the new adults hatching had only an abdomen one-half the size of a normal worker bee. I thought the bees had morphed into a new species…more like a leaf-cutter bee. Nevertheless the hives eventually expanded over time and brought in a great crop…a testament to the resiliency of the species.

Years later a Canadian bee scientist…Mark Winston…found that bees reared with a deficiency of protein couldn’t activate their wax glands…so they couldn’t build new comb.

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Wow, that is a big consequence…