Bee Pollen Information

Honeybees gather pollen from flowers as a source of protein. Most bees in a colony are nectar collectors, but a certain percentage of them are designated pollen gatherers. As these bees fly from flower to flower, they add a tiny amount of nectar to the pollen to make it sticky, then use their front legs to knead this pollen into a little indentation--the "pollen basket"--on each rear leg. Once their pollen baskets are full, they return to their hive to store the pollen in a comb. Bees store combs of pollen as well as combs of honey--people used to eat these pollen combs, calling it "bee bread."

To gather the pollen that the bees have so laboriously collected, beekeepers have invented pollen traps which fit onto the bottom of the hive. A bee enters the trap, and then has to pass through a double screen to get into the hive. This screen knocks about half of the pollen granules off, which fall into a tray for collection. The other half of the granules make it into the hive, where they are stored by the bees as usual.

Pollen is used as a human food because it contains an amazing spectrum of nutrients: 22 amino acids, 18 vitamins, 25 minerals, 59 trace elements, and 11 enzymes or coenzymes, to name a few. It has a high protein content (typically 25%), but is low in fat. People take pollen for a variety of reasons. Many say it gives them more energy, or protection from allergies. Health food companies promote pollen for just about every ailment imaginable. (If you have Internet access, punch "bee pollen" into your favorite search engine, and you will be able to spend hours reading about it.) My conservative viewpoint is that pollen is an excellent nutritional supplement, because it contains such a wide variety of nutrients. Also, it has the advantage of being a food, not a pill, so the nutrients are in a natural form that's easy to assimilate.

When you start eating pollen, it's important not to overdo it at first. Allergic reactions are rare, but they can be severe. So it's best to take only a few granules the first day. If no reaction occurs, double the amount each day until you reach the desired dosage. A typical dose is anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon a day--experiment to see what works best for you.

Pollen can be eaten straight, added to smoothies, or sprinkled on salads. (It can be used in cooking, but it is best eaten raw, to preserve as many nutrients as possible.)

Our local pollen varies widely. The color is usually yellow or orange, but we can also get a lot of tan sometimes. Occasionally the bees bring in green or even blue pollen. I think most people eat pollen for its nutritional value rather than as a gourmet taste treat. Sometimes the pollen can be bitter, but the bees can bring in some really tasty orange pollen after heavy summer rains. It all depends on what's blooming at the time.

Bee pollen is usually dried so that it can be stored at room temperature, but I have always felt that pollen is more nutritious if it is left moist, just as it comes from the pollen trap. We store our pollen in a freezer until it's time to take it to the co-op, where it remains refrigerated. We recommend that people keep their pollen in a refrigerator if they plan to eat it within a few weeks. For long-term storage, a freezer is best.

Bee pollen is about the most natural dietary supplement you can find, loaded with nutrients, and every granule has been personally gathered by a bee. Few pills have ever received such personal attention!