Sunday, November 4, 2012


Honey bees (Apis melifera  or Apis cerana) are one of the potential industries in Malaysia in recent years. Honey bees and other similar insects as I know have no unusual nutritional requirements for their daily activities. The honey bees require carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water for growth, development, maintenance, and reproduction. Nectar and honeydew are the chief sources of supply for the carbohydrates in the diet of bees and pollen furnishes all the other indispensable constituents. This source are available throuhout allAdult bees can survive on carbohydrates (that is, honey or sucrose) and water; however, proteins, lipids or fats, minerals, and vitamins are necessary for growth and development of young bees and in rearing larvae. This article I would like to share the technology for food requirements of bee colony that was adapted from various sources. The bee rearing in Malaysia is at the initial stage for hobby and only less than 250 metric ton of pure honey produced annually. 

Normally the adult bees of a colony obtain their dietary protein from the pollen the workers collect and bring back to the hive or from nitrogenous food-stuffs provided by the beekeeper. The proteins of some pollens are deficient in certain amino acids required by bees. Some of these amino acids are essential for bees and cannot be synthesized by them; therefore, the pollens or protein supplement diet of emerging bees and nurse bees should contain protein with an amount and variety of amino acids that will satisfy their nutritional need. Young bee larvae and the queen obtain their protein from the food (royal jelly) they are fed by nurse worker bees. From my observation this bee colony activity cooperated among themselves as the social insects.

Proteins of a precise quality and definite amino acid composition are required for optimum growth of young adult bees and for development of the brood food-producing hypopharyngeal glands of nurse worker bees. If nurse bees do not get pollen or some other appropriate protein source, their brood food gland secretions are not adequate for support of normal growth and development of the larvae and egg production of the queen. When nursing duties are finished (between the 10th and 14th day of adult life) and field duties are undertaken, the requirement for protein decreases, and the chief dietary constituent becomes carbohydrates obtained from nectar and honey.

Carbohydrates form a large part of the diet of the colony and are required by both the larva and adult for normal growth and development. Carbohydrates in the bees’ diet are used mainly to generate energy for muscular activity, body heat, and vital functions of certain organs and glands, such as wax production. Nectar and honey are the chief sources of carbohydrates in the honey bee’s natural diet. Adult bees can live on the carbohydrates glucose, fructose, sucrose, trehalose, maltose, and melezitose. They cannot utilize the carbohydrates galactose, mannose, lactose, raffinose, dextrin, inulin, rhamnose, xylose, or arabinose. Cane and beet sugars are suitable substitutes for the carbohydrates in the natural diet of adult bees. Bees also utilize the carbohydrates in certain fruit and plant juices. 

Lipids (sterols and fats) are probably used by larvae and young adult bees as sources of energy and for the synthesis of reserve fat and glycogen; however, scientific investigations have not conclusively demonstrated whether bees require lipids in their diets. The results of a few scientific studies suggest that young adult bees require and utilize some of the lipids in the pollen they consume. Since all insects studied critically have been found to require a dietary sterol, it is reasonable to assume bees also require this lipid. Also, certain lipids in the bees’ diet probably play a significant role in the lubrication of food when it is ingested, digested, and metabolized.

The exact role played by vitamins in the growth and development of honey bees is not known. There is scientific evidence, however, that pantothenic acid is necessary for queen-worker differentiation and that riboflavin and nicotinic acid play a vital role in initiating brood rearing. Also, the presence of some vitamins or the absence of others may adversely affect the production and composition of brood food. In general, the vitamin needs of the colony are satisfied as long as pollen stores or protein supplementary foods are adequate, abundant, and available in the hive. 

The minerals known to be required in the diet of man and other vertebrates (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chlorine, phosphorus, iron, copper, iodine, manganese, cobalt, zinc, and nickel) have all been shown to be needed by some species of insects. Pollens contain all of these minerals, and honey bees utilize at least some of them in their vital life processes. Little is known about the specific role of water in the vital life processes of honey bees. It is collected by bees and used primarily as a diluent for thick nectar and honey, to maintain optimum humidity within the hive, and to cool the atmosphere within the hive during hot weather. In general, the amount of water required and collected by a colony is related to the outside air temperature and relative humidity, strength of colony in terms of number of bees, and amount of brood rearing in progress. The water requirements of a colony are quite extensive in the spring when large amounts of brood are reared. The food supplements for bee colony has to be known by most farmers. The are trained to understand the basic concepts of bee food requirements sciences before they start their bee rearing project.


M Anem
Bagan Datok, 
(17 Zulhijjah 1433H)

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