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All About Bee Pollen, or Bee Bread, and How to Harvest Your Own

Bee pollen has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

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.

Bee pollen has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

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.

Bee pollen has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

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.

Bee pollen has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

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.

Bee pollen has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

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.

Bee pollen has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

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.

Bee pollen has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

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!

Bee pollen has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!


Bee pollen, also known as bee bread, has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

Bee pollen, also known as bee bread, has a long list of touted health benefits. Learn more and how to harvest your own from your hive!

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Heidi
    November 17, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve done two things with bee pollen that worked pretty good, and are super simple. I made some granola and then after it was cooked I mixed in the bee pollen. I second thing ive done is ground some up in a mortar and pestal and sprinkled on my oatmeal. Thanks for the write up on the pollen, I really didn’t know much about it, just that its good for us. ☺

    • Reply
      Melissa
      November 18, 2016 at 8:05 am

      Those are great ideas, thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Kalamain
    November 17, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    Put it in Ice cream!
    You don’t need much though.

    • Reply
      Melissa
      November 18, 2016 at 8:05 am

      how much would you suggest? I added some to a smoothie and the flavor was very ‘waxy’.

      • Reply
        Kalamain
        November 18, 2016 at 9:01 am

        Well… When I had it years ago you sprinkled it on top like you would with cinnamon.
        If you add it in the recipe then I don’t think you would use much at all.
        You could use it like the Ben and Jerrys core ice creams, just adding in some tiny pellets.

  • Reply
    Staci @ A Chick And Her Garden
    November 25, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Hubby and I hope to add bees to the homestead so I’m scooping up any info I can get! This is something I definitely wasn’t aware of! Thank you for sharing on the Homesteader Hop!

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