To evaluate the use of SuperDFM on the improving of the winter survival rate of honey bees.

Final report for FNC21-1268

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $25,320.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: ECIBA
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information

Description of operation:

I have been using Super DFM for three years and have felt it helped the overall health of my colonies.


We are losing 40% of our honey bee colonies over the winter.  We want to study if Super DFM will improve the survival rate.  One beekeeper has used it over the past two years with great success.  It is a specialized probiotic formula for honey bees which promotes optimal bee gut health.  It is all natural and a completely safe probiotic supplement.  We have the participants just sprinkle it on the top of the brood frames four to five times throughout the 2021 season.  It is safe to use all year round even during honey flows.  This proposal should be seen as building on past work and not a repeat of same methodologies. 

Project Objectives:

The primary objectives of this study are to determine if the use of the probiotic Super DFM will significantly improve the strength of the honey bee health and  improve  their  winter survival rate.   Making bees stronger will help them fight off diseases themselves and avoid the use of other chemicals that beekeepers are now using.  Also, having stronger bees will allow beekeepers to do less feeding of sugar supplements because the bees will be able to bring in more nectar and pollen.  Using 100 hives will give us a good sample size.


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Materials and methods:
  1. Beekeepers supply all wooden ware.  If problems arise the beekeeper is to contact Steve Doty.
  2. Group will supply Super DFM powder in baggies and instructions on when to apply.
  3. Group will obtain 100 3# packages of bees for study.
  4. Group will supply a replacement queen if she is dead on arrival.
  5. Group will provide detailed steps in how the beekeepers are to care for these colonies
  6. Group may supply Formic Pro strips or Apivar strips for August application.
  7. Group is investigating the  posting of pictures and progress to a Facebook page which would serve as a way to increase social sustainability by beekeepers networking and sharing a common work.
Research results and discussion:

April 30, 2022 Update.  The use of the SuperDFM only very slightly improved the winter survival rate (not a statistical difference).  Only 26 of the 77 packages that were alive in December survived the winter.  Winter kill rate of 66%.  It was not the silver bullet that the beekeeping community was hoping for.  However 63% of the 43 beekeepers said that they planned on using the Super DFM again this year.  Most felt that it did improve the honey bees overall health.  See detail sheet.

December 31,2021 Update.  Going into 2022 we have 39 of the non-Super DFM colonies alive and 38 of the Super DFM colonies alive.

October 15, 2021 Update. We picked up and distributed 100 packages of bees to 43 different beekeepers on April 18, 2021. Mother Nature was not very friendly early in the season, so the packages got off to a slow start. 46% of the beekeepers used new foundation, 26% used drawn comb and 28% used a mixture of both. By July 1, 2021 6% of the Super DFM colonies and 11% of the non-Super DFM colonies were dead. As of October 1, 2021 going into the winter, 41 of the Super DFM colonies were alive with the following honey store weights of: 3 Light, 10 Medium and 28 Heavy. For the 39 of the non-Super DFM colonies that were alive with honey store weights of: 5 Light, 7 Medium and 27 Heavy. There was not a heavy nectar flow season for most of the beekeepers. There was not a significant difference in the amount of honey that was extracted between the Super DFM and the non-Super DFM colonies with the overall average being around 20 pounds for each hive.

SARE Detail Sheet - pdf

SARE Grant 2022 Summary - pdf

Participation Summary
3 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

43 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Published press articles, newsletters

Participation Summary:

43 Farmers participated
1 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

We shared the results on an April update with the 43 beekeepers who participated in the grant and with our ECIBA club members (430).  We will share the results at our 21st annual / auction on May 21, 2022.  They will be included in the next state newsletter which goes out to over 1000 beekeepers.  We have put it in the Purdue university pipeline.  See SARE Grant 2022 Summary letter under Research results and discussion.

We shared an October 15 update via email with the 43 beekeepers who participated in the grant. Next spring we will again visit with the 43 beekeepers and check the survival rate for both the Super DFM colonies and the non-Super DFM colonies.

We also provided an email update to all of our East Central Indiana Beekeeper Group members (430).

Learning Outcomes

45 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

Of the 23 lost colonies before December 31, 19 (83 %) of them were started on strictly foundation not on drawn comb.  This was a very important finding.

If you start out package bees on undrawn wax foundation (a sheet of wax) the queen has no place (cells) to lay eggs and there is no place for pollen and/or honey.  Only young nurse bees can ooze out the wax needed to make comb and it is a slow process.  If you have a couple of frames of old drawn comb the queen can start laying eggs immediately.  The packages that we got this year, if the beekeepers didn’t have any old comb we provided it for them with their package!

Project Outcomes

43 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.