Bee Pollen Benefits: No-Hype Facts About Bee Pollen
What are bee pollen benefits?
Well, there are many uses for bee pollen, and many people believe that bee pollen supplements offer benefits that directly impact their health. We’ll explore all of those uses for bee pollen in this section of the website.
But whether you take bee pollen supplements or not, you certainly experience some benefits from bee pollen. So do I. Everyone does.
Bee Pollen Benefits Everyone
Honey bees are directly responsible for the production of about a third of the foods we eat.
That's because they pollinate many of the plants that produce our foods as they gather pollen and nectar from the plants.
If it weren’t for honey bees producing honey and bee pollen, 1/3 of the foods eaten throughout the world would disappear.
So even if you never take a bee pollen supplement, you’ll be enjoying the benefits of bee pollen – assuming that you like to eat!
Bee Pollen Benefits Bees
Throughout their entire lives, honey bees eat only pollen and honey (or a derivative of the two such as royal jelly, which is secreted by worker bees who have eaten only pollen and honey).
Pollen provides honey bees with their only source of protein, and along with honey, supplies all of the vitamins and minerals they need.
That’s why honey bees work so hard to collect pollen, and in the process, produce food for us.
Of course, they don’t know anything about how helpful they are to us in helping to produce our food as they gather theirs.
And they aren’t intentionally pollinating plants as they go about the business of gathering their food – it just happens.
But we appreciate their efforts just the same!
How Honey Bees Collect Bee Pollen
The life of a honey bee colony depends upon the gathering of pollen. So finding pollen sources, gathering a load and bringing it back to the hive is serious business for a worker bee.
And she’s well-equipped for the job. (All worker bees are female. Male bees do no work.)
Her body is covered with many tiny hairs, each hair with many short side-branches, sort of like the structure of a feather. The hairs are ideally suited to collect the grains of pollen as the bee works within a flower blossom.
As the bee works, her body will become covered with pollen grains.
Some of the pollen she collects by just rubbing against the pollen-producing parts of the flower, the anthers. And she collects some of the pollen by grabbing the anthers with her mandibles (her mouthparts) and stripping off grains of pollen, or even licking off grains with her tongue.
As the hairs of her body become loaded with pollen grains, she uses the brush-like hairs of her legs to brush the pollen grains back to her hind legs. As she gathers the pollen from her body, she also dampens it slightly with honey or nectar from her mouth.
She packs the pollen in pollen baskets on her hind legs. The pollen baskets are made of long, curved hairs.
Since the pollen is sticky with honey or nectar, she’s able to pack the pollen grains into a ball that clings to the hairs of her pollen basket.
Once she has a good-sized ball of pollen on the pollen basket of each hind leg, she returns to the hive and deposits her pellets of pollen in a cell of the honeycomb.
Another bee will come along later and add more honey to the pollen and then pack it firmly into the cell, butting it with her head to pack it in tightly.
How Beekeepers Harvest Bee Pollen From Honey Bees
Since many people believe that bee pollen benefits them in a number of ways, there’s a ready market available to beekeepers that wish to harvest and sell bee pollen.
Beekeepers can harvest pollen from their hives by using pollen traps.
Pollen traps are designed to remove the pollen pellets from the bees’ hind legs as they pass through a narrow opening. The pollen pellets fall into a container that is screened so that the bees cannot retrieve the pollen.
The beekeeper frequently – often daily – harvests the pollen pellets from the container of the pollen trap.
Individual bees are not harmed as they pass through the pollen trap. And as long as the beekeeper is careful not to harvest too much pollen, the colony also is not harmed.
A strong colony is capable of gathering much more pollen than it actually consumes.
What is bee pollen? It’s an astoundingly nutritious substance. It’s a rich source of protein and provides many of the vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients that honey bees (and humans!) need to survive and thrive.
There really haven’t been very many bee pollen research studies conducted. Certainly not enough to absolutely prove that bee pollen benefits are as strong as many claim. But have these studies removed the aura of intrigue surrounding the use of bee pollen? Far from it...