Pollen is a powerful protein source that includes all the essential amino acids that the bees need – and not all that surprisingly, that humans need as well.

What is a Protein? Proteins are defined as: Any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds that consist of large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, collagen, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies.

Reaching back to my days in organic chemistry (least favorite 8am class in all of college) we can discuss how amino acids are broken down by the body and rerouted to the places they’re most needed. In a presentation at the 2016 American Beekeeping Federation joint conference in Galveston, there was a discussion about how these amino acids increase honey bee brain function and efficiency.

Needless to say, it’s important to know bee nutrition as a beekeeper and make sure your bees are getting a variety of pollen sources – possibly even supplements if your area requires it. Although “the real deal” is better, your bees nutrition can affect their survival, productivity, and brain function so their nutrition needs should be met regardless.

The bees collect pollen because they are electrically charged as they fly through the air and when they land on a flower, The pollen jumps onto them. As they clean themselves, they packed the pollen into what I like to call their “back pockets” aka corbiculae. These “pollen pockets” or “pollen baskets” or “pollen pants” safely store the pollen until the worker bee gets back to the hive.

When bees store pollen, it is mixed with honey and enzymes and stored in the honeycomb as “bee bread” where it can be utilized by the hive to feed the developing brood and house bees the protein they need to complete their diets.

Pollen comes in red, yellow, purple, blue, grey, orange, and many other colors. The color variety typically indicates the bees are getting a variety of amino acids to complete their dietary needs.

This worker bee has collected pollen and packed it into the corbicula of each of her legs. This allows her to bring the pollen back to the hive to feed to the baby bees.

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