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Can I reuse old pollen frames for new colonies?

There is no reason to toss out those old pollen frames or remove stored pollen for new colonies.

It has been said many times to throw the frames out “they won’t use old pollen.”

We should ask ourselves a few questions about this practice before wasting a perfectly good frame of pollen. Here are some observations I’ve made and a few studies that influence what I do with “stored pollen frames.”

  1. Beekeepers regularly supplement colonies with “fake pollen substitute patties” made from corn, wheat, and soy scraps. Yummo. What is more appealing about this than stored bee bread/pollen?
  2. When you buy a nucleus colony or a “start” from a beekeeper they typically give you a frame of “stored” bee pollen, which may or may not be old pollen (so – how do you know? you don’t) and that pollen is likely from the early spring or contains stores from the previous winter if it was an “overwintered” nucleus colony. So why do they tell me to throw the frame out from a dead-out but supply me one from a living colony?
  3. What is chemically different one frame to the other based on age? Do honeybees actually have a way to “expiry date” pollen stores?

So – here are some links to review the science behind pollen stores, please review them and let them help you make an informed decision about whether you can use those old frames or not. Based on my evaluation – that is some very valuable resource – and a great benefit to a colony that will need as much help as it can get when starting over fresh/new.

The Benefits of Pollen to Honey Bees

Hive-stored pollen of honey bees: many lines of evidence are consistent with pollen preservation, not nutrient conversion

Honey bees preferentially consume freshly-stored pollen

Honey Bee Health Coalition Nutrition Guide Addressing Pollen Substitutes

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