When people think of bee products, three words typically come to mind: honey, nectar, and pollen. However, most people don’t actually know what those three words mean and how they differ from each other.
Honey is easy enough to identify. We have all tasted it. But what is the difference between honey and pollen? And what is pollen in the first place?
This article will endeavor to answer the question, “What is bee pollen, and how is it made?” To do so, we’ll consider several subjects related to bee pollen, including its nutritional value, where it comes from, and how bees and humans alike use it. By the end, you should walk away with a much clearer idea of what bee pollen really is.
What Is Bee Pollen?
Known also as ambrosia and bee bread, bee pollen is field flowers that worker bees pack into a pellet or ball. These workers store bee pollen in the chambers of the hive. It is different from the standard field pollen because bee secretions, which we’ll explore in detail later in this article, begin a process of fermentation that changes the pollen’s chemical makeup. These biochemical transformations make the nutrients more available. Bees primarily use bee pollen as a food source for the hive, but it also has special properties that make it desirable for many people. To understand fully what bee pollen is and how it is made, one should examine the work of forager bees.
How Is Bee Pollen Made?
Forager bees collect the pollen that worker bees use to make bee pollen, but they do not eat it. When a bee becomes old enough to transition to a forager role, it can no longer produce the proteolytic enzymes necessary to digest the food.
Instead, forager bees look for flowers full of pollen, collect the pollen, and then return to the hive. From there, they hand the pollen off to other worker bees that use their heads to pack the substance into open cells situated between the stored honey and the brood. This creates a band known as bee bread.
Throughout the collecting (and possibly the packing) process, bee pollen mixes with bee salivary secretions and nectar. From this comes bee pollen.
How Do Bees Use Bee Pollen?
The primary use of pollen in the hive is to feed larvae. Nurse worker bees secrete the pollen onto the eggs to give them the nutrients they need to grow. This pollen, along with honey, creates a sustainable and healthy diet for the young bees. When a larva is chosen as the next queen bee, she feeds on lots and lots of royal jelly. Comprised of pollen and chemicals from worker bee glands, royal jelly is full of the fertility stimulants, B vitamins, and dietary supplements necessary to create a healthy, operational queen. Drones and workers also receive royal jelly during the first couple of days of their development. However, only the queen receives the substance throughout her growth.
What Is Bee Pollen’s Chemical Composition?
Much like other notable bee goods that result from collection instead of secretion (e.g., propolis and honey), the chemical composition of bee pollen varies depending on which plants the worker bees used to gather the pollen. In that regard, the chemical composition of bee pollen could change from day to day or hour to hour. No two samples of bee pollen are the same, even when they come from the same apiary. Nutritional and chemical analyses of bee pollen, therefore, can only be specific to the samples a lab is testing.
Although the chemical makeup varies widely, some averages remain consistent. On average, the composition includes 40–60 percent simple sugars (glucose and fructose), 20–60 percent proteins, 3 percent vitamins and minerals, 1/32 percent fatty acids, and 5 percent other components.
Medical Applications for Bee Pollen
Humans have discovered a plethora of medical applications for bee pollen. Some of these include:
- Regulating the immune system—One research article indicates that some compounds in bee pollen could improve the individual immune responses for human beings by stimulating the necessary immune cells. This could ultimately improve human immune systems. Compounds like volatile oils, steroids, and flavonoids may lower the impact of allergies on the immune system.
- Protecting against heart disease—Research shows that bee pollen reduces cholesterol levels and blood lipids. Lowering these factors may protect from stroke or heart disease. Bee pollen reduced atherosclerosis plaques and kept clots from forming in heart disease models.
- Healing wounds—Burns and other wounds may be treatable by bee pollen, according to animal-based research. The research suggests that ointment infused with bee pollen eliminated microbes on new burns. It also promoted wound closure and sped up the healing process.
Bee Pollen in Food
People eat bee pollen in a variety of ways. They might add bee pollen as a topping on cereals, yogurt, or salads. One can also add it to smoothies and other similar drinks. People can also buy bee pollen as a supplement if they prefer to get their nutrition using that method.
Other Bee Products
Aside from bee pollen, these furry creatures provide a great many other bee products. These include:
- Honey—Honey, the most well-known bee product, results when bees gather, alter, and keep nectar and sweet deposits from trees and plants in the honeycomb as a food source.
- Nectar—A sucrose-high liquid produced in plant glands called nectaries, nectar is a vital energy resource for bees. It is high in moisture, but that moisture mostly evaporates during the process of producing honey.
- Beeswax—At a young age, worker bees secrete beeswax from glands on their abdomens. Beeswax forms the walls and the caps of the honeycomb.
Since pollen plays such a vital role in the development of bee life, humans should consider it a valuable substance for every living creature on earth. Without a consistent supply of new, healthy worker bees to pollinate our world, we could very well perish from famine. Pollen, a food source for bee larvae, provides the backbone upon which hives grow and thrive.
If you want to enjoy this miraculous substance yourself, you can look at bee pollen for sale at Crystal’s Honey Inc. The pollen is locally sourced and delivers wonderful nutritional benefits.