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RE: [beemonitoring] Forage protein spray?

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  • Linda Newstrom
    Hi Laurie and Anita I do not know of any protein spray for flowers and am wondering why a spray of protein on flowers would be desired when pollen with protein
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 25 3:17 PM

    Hi Laurie and Anita

    I do not know of any protein spray for flowers and am wondering why a spray of protein on flowers would be desired

    when pollen with protein and other nutrients can be fed to bees directly from the plants. 


    If the goal is to feed the bees rather than attract them to the flowers then spraying a substance onto the petals

    would probably not be very efficient and could damage the petals and reproductive parts of the flower.

    This could alter the functioning of the flowers to open anthers to deliver pollen (the natural source of protein for bees).

    It would also probably not be taken up very readily by the bees since they have two more direct sources they would prefer:

    a)      gather pollen directly from flowers on living plants or

    b)      in cases where insufficient pollen is available, obtain pollen from artificial bee feed patties put in the hive.

    This artificial feed is used more as an emergency ration rather than a normal diet because nothing is better than

    fresh pollen sources from a diversity of flowers on living plants  (ref: NZ beekeeper’s feedback to us and one reference available on value of highly diverse diet for bees).

    Pollen from living plants provide many more important nutrients than just protein and contributes to bee’s immunity etc.


    If the goal is to increase protein in the bee diet then I believe the best option is to

    plant a wide diversity of high-protein pollen bearing plants within foraging range of the bees.

    Is there an option of planting high-protein pollen-bearing plants or is this not viable in the situation under consideration?

    Which type of bees are under consideration?


    Protein in pollen varies greatly from species to species ranging

    from a low of about 7 % in pine to a high of about 36% in Scotch Thistle (data from bee-collected pollen pellets analysed by Somerville 2005)

    Doug Somerville published “Fat Bees Skinny Bees” containing the values of protein from bee-collected pollen for 183 plant species and can be downloaded as a pdf for free (see attached).

    Somerville D  2005  Fat Bees, Skinny bees – a manual on honey bee nutrition for beekeepers. Report for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Australian Government, RIRDC Publication No. 05/054

    Roulston et al. reviewed pollen values from literature showing a range of 12% to 61% in the angiosperms (i.e. not including gymnosperms which tend to be very low) for flower hand-collected pollen.

    This review contains abundant information on protein in pollen and can be used in combination with information on bee foraging preferences for species of flowering plants for a given locality.

    Roulston TH, Cane JH, Buchmann SL  2000  What governs protein content of pollen: Pollinator preferences, pollen-pistil interactions, or phylogeny?  Ecological Monographs 70: 617‑643.

    Note that flower hand-collected values are higher because the nectar mixed with the pollen lowers the protein content proportion in bee-collected pellets from honey bees and bumble bees (see ref above).


    In our project, Trees for Bees NZ, we have analysed ca. 140 species of plants for the protein content in pollen.

    This list is in prep for publication and will also be available soon on www.treesforbeesnz.org.

    Our data so far shows a low of 12% in buckwheat to a high of about 37% in New Zealand flax (bee-collected pollen pellets). 

    We also have limited data on flower hand-collected pollen (about 23 sp.).


    If the expense over the long term of planting trees and shrubs

    with high protein pollen is compared

    to the expense of feeding bees in any other way (labour and supplies),

    we believe that providing sources of pollen using well-designed bee forage plantations

    would be the least expensive method of delivering protein to bees

    as it will last for years without maintenance once the plants are established

    and is known to be the best form of protein and other nutrients for bees.

    Planting a well-designed flowering calendar to supply high-protein pollen sources

    especially in times of pollen dearth

    is a valuable way to build up bee populations (honey bees, bumble bees and natives)

    and is widely practiced.


    I hope these sources of information help the situation of the person who enquired.

    If anyone else is studying nutrition in bees we would love to hear from them.




    Linda Newstrom-Lloyd


    From: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com [mailto:beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Anita M. Collins
    Sent: Tuesday, 24 September 2013 8:55 a.m.
    To: Ladadams@...; beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com
    Cc: Johnwilliamsommers@...
    Subject: Re: [beemonitoring] Forage protein spray?



    HI Laurie,


    There is a product for attracting bees to flowers.  I"ll have to dig up the information if you want it. 

    But as for a diet supplement, I'm not sure.  I've sent you request on to Gloria deGrande Hoffman at the Tucson, AZ, USDA, ARS bee lab. She's been working with diets for some time now. 






    If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research.
    Albert Einstein


    On 09/23/13, Ladadams@... wrote:


    We have received the following request - does anyone have an answer?


    I am looking for a manufacturer of a protein designed to assist pollinators - perhaps something sprayed on flowers to provide enhancement in complementing diet. Can you give me some direction here?

    Thanks for your help.




    Laurie Davies Adams
    Executive Director
    Pollinator Partnership
    423 Washington St. 5th Fl.
    San Francisco, CA 94111
    T: 415.362.1137
    F: 415.362.0176
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