- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Pistol packin’ mamas have nothing on honey bees.
Have you ever seen the pollen load that a honey bee carries?
What's pollen? It's the fine, powder-like material produced by the anthers of flowering plants, or the grains that contain the male reproductive cells of a seed plant.
The worker bees carry pollen in special pollen baskets on their legs. The baskets are concave surfaces fringed with bristles or curved hairs to hold the pollen in place.
Only the worker bees have pollen baskets. The queen bee and the drones (males) have none.
"Honey bees derive their protein, vitamins, minerals and some carbohydrates from pollens," UC Davis Extension Apiculturist Eric Mussen writes in Bee Briefs. "Since no single pollen source provides all their nutritional needs, honey bees must have a number of pollens available to them to remain healthy and to produce the royal jelly required to feed the queen and rear brood."
Worker bees feed the brood "beebread," a mixture of nectar and pollen.
Yesterday the honey bees on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis buzzed around the almond blossoms, gathering nectar and pollen.
It's amazing--truly amazing-how much pollen honey bees can pack in those pollen baskets.