Friday, August 6, 2021

Delivering Pollen substitute with a Caulking gun - Will this become an alternative to pollen patties?

Beekeepers tend to use pollen patties to get their bees all fired up for a future honey flow or generally to just help a struggling colony expand its brood nest increasing the bees in number for a number of reasons.

There are many commercial products out there stimulating the expansion of the brood nest, and in our case we have been using FEEDBEE as a trial. Usually what you would see and hear about is that one creates little pollen patties or flat pancake looking patties which are placed under the hive lids.

In our case we are using polystyrene hives (Paradise Honey BeeBox) which unfortunately do not have a large gap under the hive lid. Adding a hive mat and just having a tiny fraction of burr comb on top of the hive mat already makes it a bit of a pain closing down the colonies. Usually one would have to scrape down burr comb of the top of the hive bars to make room for those extra few millimetres consumed by the pollen patty. 

Also we don't always want to deploy the same or similar amounts of feed, some hives may need more or less than others. In some cases not all of the patty is being consumed due to bees not having access to the patty, and some of the patty is then later being scraped down and simply being lost in the scrape down of the top bars with another required effort.

Once I first seen someone on youtube coming up with pollen sausages I was intrigued and wanted to play around with the idea. So rather than using patties we wanted to experiment with a new approach, using a highly customized amount of feed on a per colony basis while ensuring the bees have extremely fast access to the patty. The idea is to enlarge the surface area to the patty and having them consume 100-400g worth of feed within 48h for instance.

When playing around with such ideas is usually the time when I typically go through my wife's kitchen looking for inspirations on how to do the task at hand. As we did not have the right cake dough / cake icing gun and even if we had one they seemed to be a little fragile for the project at hand. Hence I went to the local hardware store to find if there is something else I could use instead and found Caulking guns at Bunnings for 11 bucks! What a bargain for this test!

(For this approach we have not exactly followed the guidance by the pollen feed instructions, this is rather a unique mix, adding pollen sub-powder until we got the consistency we intended to have)


Within the first few trials we had the nozzle set way to small, as well having fairly runny dough which has the tendency to drop down and potentially drown bees in the pollen sub dough. Hence you want to have it on the dry side, avoiding any squashed bees under the pollen-sub. Also you may need to puff smoke over the top bars just shortly before applying the sausage to get the bees out of the way.


However when you mix your dough adding more and more pollen sub to the mix up to a point where its fairly dry it seems to be quite solid and remains over the top bars nicely. Once you place the hive mat on top and close the lid it gently pushes the sausage into the top 5-10mm of the top bar, giving the bees a massive surface to access the patty while avoiding having leftovers on the top bars. It places the pollen sub nearly at the right height within the frame in comparison on how bees normally would store the pollen around the top of the frames.

Keep in mind, this has been an initial trail / experiment and we yet need to find a way to scale up this process to make any sense within a commercial beekeeping enterprise, however I could imagine having some "extra pipes / spare Culking magazines" worth of caulking guns or similar to make this work on larger scale.

I had weighted the filled Caulking gun and I think it weighed around 5 kg, which was not too bad in terms of quantity. Assuming you have 2-3 prepared caulking "pipes" it should be enough to custom feed a minor site. 

MISSING PICTURE of thick sausage applied, remaining on top bars. 

MISSING - Flattened picture of sausage once hive mat and lid applied and removed.

Cleaning the Caulking gun is rather an easy and quick task, as you only need hot water to flush out all the remaining pollen sub. Its a 2 minute job to finish off, however try to do this task sooner than later...

I will be updating the blog entry a few month in to update how.

Happy feeding!



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