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How to Make a Pollen Feeder for Bees
Make your own pollen feeder for bees using a few simple pieces of PVC. A honey bee colony must have pollen in order to thrive. Nature doesn’t always provide enough. Part of the beekeeper’s job is understanding the needs of the honey bee colony. Offering bees a pollen substitute in times of need is one part of keeping bees successfully.
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 when natural sources may lag.
A drought may cause a lack of natural pollen or rapidly building early Spring colonies may run short of stored pollen.
In addition to using pollen patties inside the hive, you can offer dry pollen or pollen substitute. I am going to show you 1 simple way to make your own pollen feeder for bees.
Why Do Bees Collect Pollen?
Honey bees collect pollen because they need protein. Protein is required in order to raise young baby 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.
Feeding Pollen to Honey Bees
One common way for beekeepers to feed pollen to bees is by making a “pollen patty”. Due to the difficulty involved in collecting fresh 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 in a feeder. 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.
Dry Pollen Feeders
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. Some of them are useful but outrageously expensive for what they are.
Bees in need will feed from a small amount of pollen on a plate outside in a protected location. But other animals will eat the pollen too and it is not protected from rain.
If you enjoy a good bee project, it is relatively easy to make your own PVC pollen feeder. Let’s do it.
Tools and Materials for DIY Pollen Feeder
- 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
- cat? (optional)
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.
How to Make a Pollen Feeder – Step by Step
You need 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.
Time needed: 20 minutes.
Directions for making a dry pollen feeder for honey bees
- Cut the Pollen Feeder to Length
Thin walled PVC is very easy to cut. A decent hacksaw will make quick work of the job.
A longer pollen feeder will hold more pollen. But, it will also 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.
- Glue the End Cap on one End of the Pipe
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.
- Attach 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.
- Allow Pollen Feeder Assembly to Dry
Give the feeder a few minutes to set and then find a good place to hang it for your hungry bees.
Where to Place Your Bee Protein Feeder
- off the ground or protected from animals
- away from the bee yard
- easily accessible for the beekeeper
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.
Normally, I only put a small amount of pollen substitute in the feeder at a time. This is just in case a mishap occurs, good pollen sub is not cheap.
If I want to put out a larger amount, I will place my pollen feeder inside a wire cage.
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.
Locate Protein Feeders Well Away From Your Beehives
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. Remember, honey bees can fly.
Put your pollen feeder in an easily accessible location. There will be a lot of bee activity at the feeder sometimes- don’t place it too close to the house or play area.
Fill Your PVC Pollen Feeder
Within just a few minutes of installation, several worker bees had found my pollen substitute. If the weather is warm enough for bee flight, most colonies locate the protein source within a day or so.
One of my favorite dry pollen substitutes is 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 at 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. In most locations, bees are able to find natural pollen to suit their needs during most of the year.
Final Thoughts on a DIY Pollen Feeder for Bees
Enjoy seeing your bees collect pollen from your own feeder. This is not a replacement for natural pollen – rather is it a substitute for times when the bees need help.
Make your own pollen feeder for your bees – it is a lot of fun to watch them at work. Also, it provides some needed protein for colonies that are low on pollen stores.