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Pollen traps require constant attention

A pollen trap is a device that fits over the hive entrance and forces returning foragers to crawl through small openings in order to enter the hive. The openings are so small that some of the pollen pellets are stripped from the bees’ legs and fall into a collection tray. The number of pollen pellets collected in this way varies with the size of the openings and the size of the pellets, but typical traps may collect 30-70% of the pellets.

The purpose of collecting pollen is to keep a reserve of high-quality protein for use during early spring brood rearing or for queen rearing. This pollen is often mixed with soybean flour or brewer’s yeast to make pollen patties which are then placed on top of the frames for the bees to eat.

Like the infamous mouse trap, the pollen trap is always being re-designed. There are bottom-mounted, top-mounted, side-opening, and back-opening pollen traps. They are made of wood or plastic and have mesh openings or drilled openings. Many are opened and closed easily, so they can be engaged or disengaged. In short, there is a trap for every taste.

Regardless of the design, however, some issues remain constant:

  • Trapped pollen is fragile. It needs to be collected every day and frozen or dried immediately to maintain quality.
  • Trapped pollen must not get wet, as it will mold and decay rapidly.
  • Only strong colonies should have traps. Weaker colonies need all the pollen they can collect to raise brood.
  • Traps should only be used during heavy pollen flows, and only for several weeks at most. When pollen is scarce, the colonies will need it all.

Much disagreement surrounds the use of pollen traps. Some beekeepers believe it reduces nectar collection because the congestion at the hive entrance slows the movement of foragers. Some believe that change in the opening configuration disrupts the bees for several days each time the trap is deployed.

Nevertheless, there is no better source of protein for brood development and queen rearing than high-quality pollen, so many beekeepers like to keep a supply on hand. But if you decide to trap pollen, remember that it requires constant manipulation and collection. If you don’t keep up with it, you can ruin the pollen and damage your colony.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

Comments

Hello_Kitty_
Reply

My colony died about a month ago, but I’m babysitting a small colony that belongs to another beekeeper. From my hive, I’ve given the “nuc” 12+lbs of honeycomb and I have a comb of beebread in the freezer. When should I give the beebread to the nuc? After I put it in, will it stimulate brood rearing or will the bees ignore it until they’re ready to eat it? I also have pollen collected by a local beekeeper. How do I feed the pellets to the bees?

Rusty
Reply

The bees start using pollen when they start rearing brood. Brood rearing may cease during November and December, but it starts to build up slowly as the days get longer–after the winter solstice. So you can give them pollen anytime now, although they won’t need very much at first.

Pollen that is left in the hive all winter runs the risk of getting moldy, so you might want to wait till the end of January or so before giving them the whole frame. On the other hand, they should always have some pollen available because it’s hard to know how much brood is being raised.

You can take the frozen pollen and mix it with confectioner’s sugar and make it into a patty, or you can just put some on a piece of newspaper above the frames. Some people put it in a syrup feeder (with no syrup.)

I’m sorry about your hive, but please don’t get discouraged. Even seasoned pros have trouble keeping their hives alive, as you know. Always keeping at least two hives is a good idea because it gives you more flexibility when things go wrong.

Having at least two hives is the second rule of beekeeping. The first rule is that no one should keep bees at all, unless they are crazy as loons to start with. That, I assume, would include both of us.

Hello_Kitty_
Reply

This is my second dead-out in 3 years. Not discouraged, but I do feel that I’m doing something wrong. I’m very glad for your help in being a better beekeeper.

I think I will wait until the beginning of next month to put in the beebread and pollen. Silver maples are blooming by the first week of March (usually) so I hope the pollen reserves will last until the fresh stuff is coming in. Since I have a top bar hive, I can’t place patties over frames, so I plan to mix the loose pollen with a bit of honey and smear it into the comb to top it off. The comb was originally 3rd in from the (end) entrance, so I’m assuming the bees like pollen up front. I’m always scared to go into the brood nest, so it should be fun getting it in. My bees (the ones that died) were super mellow but these bees are feisty, so I’ll be extra nervous. Wish you were here in CO.

Rusty
Reply

HB,

Thank you so much for your continued support; you say such nice things!

I have to tell you, though, I read your comment about your bees needing “little cups” to drag across the bars and I almost split. Too funny!

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