Winter is finally over, but some parts of the country are still feeling the effects of the winter. That cold weather could keep the flowers from blooming, thereby preventing honey bees from their natural food sources. Even in typically warmer parts of the country, specific plants may have yet to bloom, so honey bees are starting to look for ways to get nourishment, and those bird feeders are looking pretty good right about now.
If you have a birdfeeder stuffed with cracked corn near your home, you have probably noticed the presence of honey bees. They are not there to hurt the birds and most of the contents of the bird feeder are of little interest. However, the cracked corn is drawing them in for one specific reason… the dust created by the crack corn looks like pollen to the bees and may even contain small traces of corn pollen.
All About Survival
If you have even remotely studied the habits of bees, you know they are survivors. What these bees do during the winter months to survive is amazing, so nobody should be really surprised that when push comes to shove, the honey bee will find rather odd sources for food. When opportunity knocks, especially when their regular sources of food are not in abundance, those bird feeders make for pretty good pickings for honey bees.
Many laymen believe that honey bees live solely on the honey they produce, but that is not true. Just like humans, they live off both carbs and proteins. The honey is great for a source of carbs but for protein, it is pollen that the honey bees use. Protein is needed to create bee bread, which is what the bee larvae are fed as well as the honey bees themselves from a very early stage of development. A queen bee would be the only exception, as her primary source of nutrition is royal jelly.
Bees craving pollen this way at the beginning of the season also brings to light the need to feed managed bees more than just sugar water during the winter. Could the lack of protein in the winter diet be another reason honey bees die off during the winter months? While we can’t say for sure, it would not hurt to add some sort of protein patty to the hive over the winter to provide added nutrition for the bees. There are a wide variety of protein patties available for sale so whether you are a hobbyist or just getting started as a beekeeper, keep this in mind when next winter rolls around.