Pollen substitutes increase honey bee haemolymph protein levels as much as or more than does pollen
Adequate substitutes for pollen are necessary for maintaining healthy bee colonies during periods of pollen dearth, but testing them objectively is both time consuming and expensive. We compared two commercial diets with bee collected pollen and acacia pod flour (used by beekeepers in some parts of Brazil) by measuring their effect on haemolymph protein contents of young bees exclusively fed on these diets, which is a fast and inexpensive assay. The commercial diets included a new, non-soy-based, pollen substitute diet (named Feed-Bee®) and a soy-based diet, named Bee-Pro®. The diets were each given in patty form to groups of 100 Africanized honey bees in hoarding cages, maintained and fed from emergence until six days of age. Sucrose, in the form of sugar syrup, was used as a protein free control. Feed-Bee®, Bee-Pro®, pollen and acacia pod flour diets increased protein titers in the haemolymph by factors of 2.65, 2.51, 1.76 and 1.69, respectively, over protein titers in bees fed only sucrose solution. The bees fed Feed-Bee® and Bee-Pro® had their haemolymph significantly enriched in protein compared to the controls and those fed acacia pod flour and to titers slightly higher than those fed pollen. All four proteinaceous diets were significantly superior to sucrose alone.