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Back to the Basics

When a hive is prepped for winter, it typically has a good brood cluster and enough honey (50 lbs. – 60 lbs.) for the adult bees to eat. On warmer days, when beekeepers can go into their hives, fondant or candy is added so the bees will have enough food to make it through winter. Beekeepers are sometimes focused only on ensuring their bees have enough honey stored to last them through winter, and they forget about checking their hive’s pollen stores. The adult bee relies mainly upon honey but some pollen may be consumed. While some pollen is consumed by the adult bee, the majority is intended to feed larvae.


After pollen is harvested from flowers and taken into the hive, bees will mix small quantities of honey and nectar with the pollen. It is packed into cells along the outer edges of the brood nest where it forms into bee bread. A nurse bee uses this nutritious, high-protein food and converts it into royal jelly that is fed to the young larvae. As the larvae continue to develop, its diet is changed to bee bread.

Bee Bread is the principal food for the young and developing larvae. The availability of pollen or pollen substitute translates into an increase in brood production.

During the preparations for winter, it is understandable that beekeepers want to minimize the brood production in the hive. This allows for:

  • The queen to rejuvenate from laying
  • Decreases the amount of brood that must be kept at a certain temperature
  • Breaks up the Varroa Mite cycle
  • Smaller adult populations consume less food.
Hopefully soon we will begin seeing warmer days and winter coming to an end. Consider how you want to prepare your hives for spring. Adding pollen or pollen substitute to ramp up the brood production in your hive will allow you to have a good population for the start of the nectar flow.

For those who live in areas where you experience heavier populations of hive beetles, decrease the amount of pollen patties you provide at one time.