An Easy & Inexpensive Way to Make a Pollen Feeder
It is a common practice for beekeepers to offer pollen or pollen substitutes to honey bee colonies. This gives the honey bee colony a boost at certain times of the year.
A drought may cause a lack of natural pollen or rapidly building early Spring colonies may run short of stored pollen.
Why Do Bees Collect Pollen?
Honey bees need a protein source in order to raise young bees. The colony can not raise new bees on honey or nectar alone.
The protein rich pollen produced by blooming plants is vital to colony survival.
A percentage of the foragers in a honey bee colony will always be collecting pollen. How many bees are involved in pollen collection is determined by the needs of the colony.
A colony that is short on pollen reserves will have more bees devoted to collection. The pollen is mixed with saliva (enzymes etc.) and converted into “bee bread”. It will keep for a while without spoiling.
How Beekeepers Feed Pollen to Bees
One common way for beekeepers to feed pollen to bees is by making a “pollen patty”. Due to the difficulty involved in collecting pollen and preventing spoilage, a pollen substitute is often used.
The patty is made by mixing the dry pollen substitute with sugar water. It is then placed in the hive for the bees.
Another method, of providing pollen involves the use of a dry pollen substitute. This is often put outside the hive in a location accessible to the bees but protected from rain.
This is one of my favorite ways of supplementing pollen for my bee colonies.
Feeders used to provide dry pollen/substitute can be as simple or as complex as you desire. You can purchase pre-made feeders in a variety of styles.
Or, simply place a small amount of pollen on a plate outside in a protected location. But, it is relatively easy to make your own PVC pollen feeder. Let’s do it.
How to Make a Pollen Feeder – Step by Step
- a length of 4″ thin wall PVC pipe (only need about 12″)
- End Cap to fit the pipe (4″ PVC)
- PVC Sewer & Drain Downspout Adapter, 3×4-Inches
- PVC Glue
- Pollen Substitute
All of the supplies needed to make your pollen feeder are easily acquired at any home improvement store. The PVC pollen feeder is easy to make and relatively inexpensive.
This is especially true if you can find someone to share costs with. I say this because the 4″ thin wall PVC pipe usually comes in 10′ lengths! Try to acquire pipe locally.
Step #1 Gather Supplies to Make Pollen Feeder
I am using a section of thin walled PVC pipe with a 4″ diameter. This pipe is found in the drain or gutter section of home improvement stores. If you have another type of pipe, you can use it but be sure the fittings will fit.
As I mentioned, if you purchase this pipe at Home Depot or similar, it comes in a 10′ section. A nice associate cut it in half for easy hauling.
You will also need an End Cap to fit the 4″ pipe. We want to close off one end of the pollen feeder. This aids in keeping the pollen dry even in windy, rainy weather.
To create an entrance for the bees and still keep most of the pollen inside the pipe, use a Drain Downspout Adapter. It will fit on our 4″ pipe and have a square opening for the bees.
Many home owners have some PVC glue around the house. You will need a small amount to glue the end cap and Drain Downspout Adapter onto our section of pipe.
And, you need a hacksaw to cut the pipe to the best length. While you can make the pollen feeder any size, a length of 8″-12″ seems to work well.
If you have concerns about cutting the pipe, or maybe you don’t have a hacksaw? I have found most store associates willing to help when asked nicely.
Step #2 Cutting the Pollen Feeder to Length
Thin walled PVC is very easy to cut. A decent hacksaw will make quick work of the job. Again, if you are not prepared to cut the pipe – ask for help.
A longer pollen feeder will hold more pollen. But, it will always be more difficult for the bees to navigate.
Cutting the pipe to a length of 8″-10″ seems to work well. The best news is you don’t have to worry about cutting straight. Your fittings will cover any uneven edges.
Step #3 Glue on the End Cap
Now, it’s time to close one end of our section of pipe. Use the PVC cement (adhesive) to glue on the end cap. Avoid getting it on your hands – as it is hard to remove.
You do not have to worry about a tight seal. We are not trying to make the pipe water tight. A light coating of cement will work fine.
Step #4 Attach the Drain Downspout Adapter
Glue the Drain Downspout Adapter to the other end of our PVC pollen feeder pipe. This will provide an entrance for the bees while keeping our pollen substitute safely inside.
Step #5 Hanging the Pollen Feeder
I have found it best to locate the pollen feeder up off the ground. Bees are not the only things that like pollen substitute.
Cats, Raccoons, Opossums and my own goats have enjoyed a feast on occasion. If I want to put out a larger amount, I will place my pollen feeder inside a wire cage.
Normally, I only put a small amount of pollen substitute in the feeder at a time. A portable garden t-post and a bungee cord works very well. We want a slight downward tilt on the pollen feeder-just in case of rain.
It is not necessary to place your pollen feeder too close to the hives. In fact, I hesitate to put any food source near the hives. I do not want to attract anything to the bee yard such as wasps, skunks etc.
Bees can fly. Put your pollen feeder in an easily accessible location. But, there will be a lot of bee activity at the feeder sometimes- don’t place it too close to the house or play area.
Enjoy the Show As Your Bees Find the Pollen
Within just a few minutes of installation, several worker bees had found my pollen substitute. I am currently using Ultra Bee from Mann Lake.
The bees seem to like it very well. Because it is not cheap, I only put out about 1/2 cup as a time.
Your bees will not always want to use your feeder. If there is an abundance of natural pollen, they will collect that instead. The pollen feeder is only used as a support system in times of need.
Enjoy seeing your bees collect pollen from your own feeder. They are easy to make and can provide a much needed resource for your honey bee colonies.