In my backyard, we have a couple of bee hives and I enjoy watching the bees come back to the hive laden with balls of pollen on their legs. The colour of the pollen can vary from bright yellow to orange, to yellow-brown. I have always wondered what is in bee pollen. When bees go out to flowers, they collect both nectar and pollen. The pollen is brought into the hive to make “bee bread”. Bees use the pollen to help create their brood, which, in turn, increases the colony. It is an important protein source. Their other source of food is the stores of honey, which acts as energy. Some beekeepers use special pollen traps to collect the pollen off the bees as they enter the hive so that they can sell it separately. If beekeepers trap pollen, they will often provide a pollen substitute for the bees in the way of “pollen patties”. Bee keepers make pollen patties out of real pollen often combined with other protein such as soy lecithin.
What is Pollen made of?
Bee pollen contains over 200 substances including free amino acids and vitamins, and unsaturated fatty acids such as: linoleic, linolenic, and arachidonic. The composition of pollen will differ depending on the plant it was collected from and the time of the year it is collected. If you look carefully you will see this difference as the bees bring in pollen of different colours. For example, in the spring, the maples are in bloom and this pollen will differ from early summer when the main nectar and pollen comes from blackberries and from fall where there are fewer flowers in bloom, such as asters.
- Protein: 35%
- Water: 4–10%
- Fats: 5%
- Other substances: 5–15% (including vitamins, minerals, antibiotics and antioxidants)
Pollen as a health aide
Pollen is often sold as a health aide. One pound of pollen will cost about $60. Health fans believe that bee pollen can address a wide variety of ailments from allergies to inflammatory disease to tumours. However, there is little research backing these claims and further research will have to be completed. The general consensus is that while bee pollen may not cure these ailments, it is unlikely to hurt you unless it has been tampered with. So go ahead and sprinkle a little bee pollen on your cereal and see what you think.