Pollen and Honeybees


| 4/16/2014 9:18:00 AM


dandelionBees do not live on honey alone.

Pollen = Protein

Like all living things, honeybees need protein. The protein that bees use comes from plant pollen. Grains of pollen contain amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. As bees gather from different flowers, a variety of amino acids are collected and complete proteins are available to the bee. Think of this as like when human vegetarians combine beans and rice to make a complete protein meal.

Bees utilize the protein by mixing pollen with digestive enzymes and a bit of nectar or honey. This creates a substance called "bee bread" which is then fed to worker bee larvae. Bee bread also contains enough antibacterial properties to be stored for a couple of months when there is a surplus. (Queens are fed royal jelly throughout their larval stage.)

Honeybees tend to choose pollen based on odor and physical configuration of the grains rather than the quality. Approximately 15 - 30 percent of worker bees foraging are collecting pollen as they visit various flowers. The hairs on their bodies pick up the pollen grains like a lint brush. As they visit flower after flower, some of these bits of pollen fall off and pollinate. The pollen that remains clinging to the bee is brushed into pollen baskets on their hind legs. If you watch closely when bees are visiting flowers you can see the pollen collected in these baskets. Look for tiny balls of color attached to their legs.



Between 33 and 121 pounds is required annually by an average sized colony to raise brood. Considering that a single bee carries a pollen load of about 18mg, that is a lot of trips back and forth to the hive. This pollen load may be up to 35 percent of their body weight. (1)





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