Effects of high fructose corn syrup and probiotics on growth rates of newly founded honey bee colonies

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Journal of Apicultural Research Vol. 53 (1) pp. 165-170
DOI 10.3896/IBRA.
Date February 2014
Article Title

Effects of high fructose corn syrup and probiotics on growth rates of newly founded honey bee colonies


Brian R Johnson, William Synk, W Cameron Jasper and Eric Mussen


Honey bees are agriculture’s major pollinator. As such, they are often heavily managed in order to ensure that they thrive in unproductive environments, or are at their strongest at times of the year that are abnormal given their life history. Within this context, supplemental feeding is critical. There is currently debate among commercial beekeepers as to what sort of carbohydrate feed is best for bees. Blends of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are easiest to use, and cheapest, but there are some possible health concerns for the bees. Commercial suppliers of HFCS also suggest that some of their blends work better than sucrose for building up colonies. Here we test these issues by determining whether newly established packages grow faster, and are healthier, when fed either sucrose solution or a HFCS blend. In addition, we also test whether antibiotic treatments, commonly administered to prevent bacterial diseases, impact colony health at the critical foundation stage, and whether feeding probiotics alleviates these impacts. Overall, we found no negative health effect associated with HFCS feeding. Significantly, we found that colonies grew faster and appeared healthier when fed the HFCS blend. We also found no negative effects on colony growth associated with antibiotics application, and no beneficial effects associated with probiotics treatment. This work suggests that HFCS blends are suitable and productive as large scale feeds, even at times when the colonies are strongly dependent on supplemental feeding.


Apis mellifera, honey bees, supplemental feeding, high fructose corn syrup, HFCS, antibiotics, probiotics, growth rates

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