Bees and Kombucha

After noticing how much it improved his own health, B Wrangler tried it on his bees:

In the early spring, I grade my hives strong, average, below average, weak. This year, I sprayed the below average hives with slightly diluted, about 30%, solution of overly ripe kombucha. It was probably about 3 weeks old.

The spraying was done incidentally, without any planning, etc., just to watch the initial reaction of the bees. After spraying, the below average hives were left alone, without any additional manipulation or observations.

The kombucha worked better than smoke for controlling the bees in a normal situation.

To evaluate the yard’s progress, I’d pop the covers off a couple of strong hives and a couple of weak hives every few weeks. Ten weeks later, I popped the covers off the below average hives and found they had a full super of honey, while all of the others, even those with larger bee populations had none. In fact, they hadn’t even entered the supers.

I was quite surprised to say the least! And I’d had forgotten about the incidental kombucha spraying until looking at my notes a week later.

This reminds me of the turning point in the discovery of Vitamin B1. Experiment 2 done by Christiaan Eijkman gave results opposite to Experiment 1. Eijkman was unaware, until he looked into it, that his chickens, the experimental subjects, had been fed different rice in the two experiments.

Thanks to Heidi.

9 Replies to “Bees and Kombucha”

  1. Interesting.

    And then you could use the honey as food for your kombucha!

    Actually, that brings up an interesting question: what else benefits from bacteria cultures? I’m in the process of whipping up a pair of two gallon jugs of kombucha and was trying to figure out what to do with it if it ends up tasting bad. I was thinking about maybe using it as fertilizer and seeing what my garden thinks of it.

  2. bennetta you are right: kombucha made with honey would be very very bad to spray on hives! I think your garden is already teeming with bacteria, so I wouldn’t expect kombucha to help. Yeah, why should bees living in artificial hives be bacteria-deficient, which is what this observation suggests? The bees are eating natural food — aren’t they? Or perhaps they are eating food that is unnaturally low in bacteria.

  3. Seth,

    That was my gut instinct: my organic garden would probably remain the same. Any sort of perceived change would probably be from additional nutrients in the kombucha (acids, vitamins, sugars, and whatnot) and not the bacteria itself.

    And bees feeding off of my garden? Why would they need the extra bacteria? They probably wouldn’t. Certainly not in my garden. Granted, an organic home garden in Northern California isn’t exactly a purely “natural” environment, but it’s not a hospital or freezer.

    I guess the question remains. What to do with kombucha if it comes out tasting bad, without throwing it away?

  4. In my experience kombucha can be bad in three ways: 1. Too sour. Too close to vinegar. 2. Too weak flavor. Which means I didn’t use enough tea. 3. Too strong flavor. Which means I used too much tea. I could use it to store kombucha mothers or use it to jumpstart another batch. If I had too sour kombucha today I would do an experiment: start 4 new jars of kombucha (tea + sugar + kombucha mother). In two jars I’d put some of the sour kombucha, in the other two jars I’d put nothing. Then see if there was a difference after two weeks. Perhaps the bad kombucha can speed up later batches of good kombucha.

  5. I was reading today that since honey has antibacterial properties that it shouldn’t be used to make kombucha.
    Do you have an opinion?

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