The effects of changes in spring pollen diet on the development of honey bee, Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae), colonies were examined in a 3-yr study (2002–2004). Pollen-supplemented and pollen-limited conditions were created in colonies every spring, and brood rearing and honey yields were subsequently monitored throughout the summer. In all 3 yr, colonies that were supplemented with pollen or a pollen substitute in the spring started rearing brood earlier than colonies in other treatment groups and produced the most workers by late April or early May. In 2002, these initial differences were reflected by a two-fold increase in annual honey yields by September for colonies that were pollen-supplemented during the spring compared with pollen-limited colonies. In 2003 and 2004, differences between treatment groups in the cumulative number of workers produced by colonies disappeared by midsummer, and all colonies had similar annual honey yields (exception: in one year, productivity was low for colonies supplemented with pollen before wintering). Discrepancies between years coincided with differences in spring weather conditions. Colonies supplemented with pollen or a substitute during the spring performed similarly in all respects. These results indicate that an investment in supplementing the pollen diet of colonies would be returned for situations in which large spring populations are important, but long-term improvement in honey yields may only result when spring foraging is severely reduced by inclement weather. Beekeepers should weigh this information against the nutritional deficiencies that are frequently generated in colonies by the stresses of commercial management.
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Vol. 99 • No. 3