Turpin Time: Hard Patties, Easy Solution
Hey all! John here with another edition of Turpin Time. Feel free to check out the video above and read my thoughts and responses to questions below.
A question we sometimes get is: why do your spirulina patties get hard on occasion? The best answer to this question lies in the way we designed them and the ingredients we chose.
Brace yourself - I'm about to get technical! First, we use invert syrup instead of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). HFCS is very high in fructose, which does not crystallize under standard conditions and also has humectant (moisture holding) qualities. Invert syrup is a split-sucrose molecule, which is equal parts glucose and fructose. It's actually similar to what bees do to sucrose - they create an enzyme called 'invertase' which splits the sucrose molecule. Our Invert syrup uses heat and a catalyst such as tartaric acid (tartness in grapes) to achieve the same effect.
You may be asking: why don’t we just use HFCS?
First off, we purposefully choose not to use GMO ingredients (for obvious reasons). Another reason is safety. If stored improperly, corn syrup can gain a compound which can be deleterious to honeybee health. Another reason we chose invert syrup is that it provides more energy per unit than HFCS. The reason being is that HFCS is much higher in fructose, which uses a different metabolic pathway than glucose and produces less ATP (also known as energy). The perceived downside to this is that the patties will sometimes feel harder at colder temperatures and may taste less sweet to the bees.
Personally, I see both as a positive. The harder patties store, ship, and feed-out better. I strongly believe bees should not eat a patty simply because it tastes sweet. Truth is, you can mix HFCS with just about anything and bees will eat it - but that's the same as putting bad nutrition in a pretty dress.
Another reason for occasional hardness due to colder temperatures is that we use coconut oil in our patties. Most patties use vegetable oils which are generally liquid under normal conditions. Coconut oil has a melting point of 78 degrees Fahrenheit, which can sometimes lead to a harder patty when cooled for extended periods. Our reasoning for using coconut oil is primarily because it's an extremely healthy fat with an excellent lipid profile.
Fats, contrary to popular belief, do far more than force us to buy new pants with larger waistbands. Certain lipids (such as those found in coconut oil) help bees resist certain types of stress such as lipid peroxides, and are center stage in a whole host of other functions. We also add a small amount of vegetable oil to deliver a nice balance of saturated and non-saturated fatty acids. After all, well-rounded diets aren't just for humans - bees need them just as much as we do.
So now you may be thinking: “That’s cool, John, but what do you want me to do? Shingle the heathiest roof ever?” I have an extremely uncomplicated answer for this. . . Don’t worry about it. The patties will become soft once they get warm.
How will they magically warm up? Fortunately, bees keep their brood nest at a comfortable 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to soften your once hard patties. The bees that need supplemental feed the most are nurse bees and young, developing bees. The need for protein supplementation shrinks after a bee's 15th birthday (if days were years). So, keep the patty where the bees that need it will be. Nutrition is paramount in the development of hypopharyngeal glands. Stunted gland development doesn't just impact nurse bees, but future generations raised by them as well.
Want your patties to soften before you put them in the hive? There's a solution for that, too. Simply leave them in the sun for a little bit. Our patties are dark green and soften up rather quickly in the sun. Last February, I thought I had a formulation problem because some of the patties in my basement turned into spirulina asphalt over the winter. All I had to do to fix them was set the box out on the table and, within an hour, they had softened. Problem solved.
Another question we sometimes get is: why do not we just wrap them in plastic? There are two reasons to this. For one, we do not believe they need plastic to stay fresh. Our patties have an incredibly low moisture content, and combined with the waxed paper and the thin, outer bark that develops, they are able to retain their freshness for longer periods of time. The other reason is that spirulina (our main protein source) is one of the most sustainable and environmentally conscious proteins there is. We do not want to add plastic into that mix. Without plastic, you can safely compost the entire thing. My mantra is: the less that ends up in landfills, the better. It’s every company's responsibility to reduce waste on every level, and not using plastic aligned with our central goal to promote sustainability.
I'm no master videographer, but as I get better, I plan on filming more videos on exploring beekeeping nutrition and best practices. If there are any specific topics you would like me to cover, feel free to write us! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you and your bees have an excellent year!
John "Turpin Time" Turpin