When I lost my top bar hive, the robbers stole all the honey before I could get there. They did not, however, take the bee pollen. I took advantage of an empty have and gathered up all that I could.
About Bee Pollen:
Pollen are the bee’s protein source. If you look closely at a bee while visiting a flower, you’ve likely seen them covered in the dust of pollen. the feathery hairs on their body pick up the pollen while they visit the flowers. The bees then use their legs to comb the pollen onto their back legs. The joints of their legs compress the loose pollen dust into a hard cake, which they then carry back to the hive in on a section of the back leg known as the pollen basket.
Bees gather pollen discriminately, as not all flowers produce pollen that is high in nutrition. Bees visit all the same type of flower on one trip, which allows for both pollination and for them to bring back a distinct color of pollen at one time. Different flowers produce different color pollen, and in the hive you’ll find a range from white to orange to brown to yellow.
You might be familiar with bee pollen from seeing it at health food stores or at the farmers market. Perhaps you’ve heard about its amazing health benefits. Reputed to contain 22 amino acids, 27 minerals, and a long list of vitamins, it has been said to treat ailments like allergies, asthma, diarrhea, anemia, cancer, and arthritis.
The product you see in stores are pollen grains that have simply been collected by the bees, its not much different from the pollen out on the plant. A beekeeper gathers the pollen from the bees by attaching a brush-like contraption to the entrance of the hive. The bees have to crawl through the brush to get into the hive, therefore knocking off the grains of pollen they just collected, and allowing it to be gathered up by the beekeeper.
When Bee Pollen Becomes Bee Bread
The bees can’t actually digest the pollen proteins in this raw form, and it is thought that humans can’t either. Once the pollen is taken into the hive, the bees inoculate the pollen with beneficial bacteria that break down the pollen coating, which prevents the pollen from going rancid, and it makes the proteins available for digestion. They then pack it into cells of the comb, often layering many types of pollen into one cell. It is now known as bee bread, and it will act as a crucial food source for the colony during the fall and winter.
So when I discovered I lost my hive, and my honey, I was a bit upset. However, the silver lining of the situation was that there was tons of bee bread available for me to harvest.
How to Harvest Bee Pollen
Getting the bee bread out of the comb was a bit challenging, and it took some time. Because my comb did not have plastic foundation, I found the most effective way to extract the pollen was to cut the comb. I’d use my large chef knife to cut down a row of cells, then used a fondu fork to pop the pollen plug out of the cell.
Another way was to break the comb, and flick the pollen plug out from the row that was just opened up. Neither way was perfect, I’d mangle together pollen and wax from impact of the knife or my hands and lose some, or I’d break off significant bits of wax along with the pollen.
Once I had enough (ie, once I was sick of picking out pollen plugs), I laid them out on a cookie sheet and froze. Then I put in a mason jar and stuck in the freezer. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to use it. Other than adding to smoothies, I need to do some research. Do you have any ideas? Please leave me a comment and let me know!