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Honey bee pollen is an important product with so many uses. It is harvested when flowers are in plenty and used to feed the bees during the hardier months such as winter. The harvested pollen can also be used for boosting brood production since it is rich in protein required for raising brood. Pollen has also gained popularity with humans and is regarded as a superfood, attracting a premium price in various markets across the world. It is rich in various nutrients that include proteins, enzymes, antioxidants, and many others. You can find bee pollen in health food stores. In this article, we shall explain how to harvest pollen from bees.
Why Bees Need Pollen
Pollen is a significant part of the honey bee nutrition. It is the male reproductive part of flowering plants, made up of the genetic material and the nutrients needed for the development of a seed. The foraging bees collect pollen from the anthers or the male part of the flower. The pollen accumulates on the body and legs of the worker bees and is transferred from one flower to the other, thus facilitating cross-pollination.
Pollen collection is important for plants and is also beneficial to the honey bees since it is a part of their nutritional requirements. The nectar collected from flowers is usually a source of carbohydrates, whereas pollen is rich in sterols, amino acids, minerals, and fats/lipids. Nectar is used for feeding the adult bees but the developing larvae and young bees require pollen.
The number of broods within the bee colony will dictate the demand for pollen. Larger brood leads to an increase in the demand for pollen. The worker bees in queenless colonies also collect pollen in anticipation of the brood.
Lack of pollen in the bee colony has a serious effect on the colony strength. Brood reared under poor quality pollen will end up being weak and have a reduced life span. In severe cases, pollen-deprived colonies end up stopping the production of a brood.
Harvesting with Pollen Traps
The pollen trap is used by beekeepers to collect pollen. These are specially designed traps that are placed at the entrance points to the beehive. The pollen is gently scraped off the feet of the bee when it enters the hive. A separate tray or catchment placed below the hive is also used to collect the pollen.
Pollen harvesting mobilizes honey bees to take more flights and forage more. It is estimated that a single bee colony can collect approximately 50 to 250 grams each day. This is equivalent to about 1 to 7 kilograms a year.
It is also worth mentioning that the quality of pollen varies depending on location, climatic conditions, type of plant, type of bees, and soil type. The pollen grains collected vary from plant to plant. They also vary in weight, color, size, and shape. The color ranges from black, bright yellow to orange. Pollen comprises more than 200 substances and is rich in protein, comprising 22.7%.
How to Process Bee Pollen
Quality control is critical when it comes to pollen. This product unlike raw honey is prone to spoilage resulting from bacteria, molds, and fungi. The pollen intended for human consumption should be harvested under hygienic conditions to avoid probable contamination. The processing should begin immediately after collection since the product deteriorates with time.
You can store harvested pollen in a frozen state or dry it before storage. Any pollen for human consumption is ideal when dried. The processing will be carried out in three stages: Drying, Cleaning, and Storage.
How to Dry Bee Pollen
It is important to dry pollen to prevent mold growth and spoilage. Pollen intended for feeding bees should not be dried but rather frozen immediately after harvesting.
The moisture content in newly harvested pollen will range from 7 to 21% and this needs to be reduce to between 2.5 to 6%, which is the ideal level for storage. Laboratory testing will help determine the moisture level. It is also important to continuously keep checking the moisture level to ensure it remains within the required level.
You can use air-drying as a way of reducing the moisture in pollen. Shallow trays can be used for this purpose. Spread the pollen evenly on the trays with a depth of 20mm. The trays should be kept in a sheltered area and not exposed to direct sunlight or bees. The pollen requires warm dry air and temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius.
During a period of high humidity, it will be necessary to dry the air before heating and then passed over the pollen. Lab testing for moisture levels will give an accurate measure of the moisture. This will require expertise.
How to Clean Bee Pollen
The pollen needs to be cleaned after it has been dried to about 6%. This will help eliminate foreign materials. You can make cleaning so much easier if you can reduce the amount of waste during the trapping process.
You need a variety of hand sieves when cleaning pollen. In the first step, use the fine fiberglass mesh as a sieve, to remove dust from the pollen. You can then pass the resulting pollen through two closely-held sieves of 3mm to remove larger debris. The remaining debris can be handpicked.
You can also utilize gravity when cleaning the pollen. The gravity-fed screening system is capable of withholding huge debris and comes with successive screens with each plate fitted with a collection box. The lowest of the screens collects dust.
How to Store Bee Pollen
Processed pollen is evaluated based on certain criteria. The market standard for pollen intended for human consumption will consider flavor and appearance. Cream, even color, and bright yellow pollen are highly preferred in the market. Bitter flavor is undesirable.
As for pollen processed for bee feed, fresh pollen that is free from contamination is ideal. The pollen should be free from pesticides.
Pollen should be stored in clean and airtight containers after processing. It is hygroscopic meaning it will absorb moisture when exposed to the air. This will ultimately affect its quality.
Do not expose the processed pollen to fumigants but rather keep the pollen in airtight containers then freeze for 24 to 48 hours. This will help prevent insect infestations. It should be sold when fresh and the pollen for feeding should not exceed 12 months before use. Any pollen meant for feeding the bees should be frozen instead of drying since dried pollen loses some of its nutrients. Dried pollen is ideal for sale to health food stores.
Uses of Bee Pollen
There are various uses of bee pollen. It is usually available in various forms that include natural granules that can be measured and taken by the spoonful. These granules can also be mixed with food such as yogurt or granola. Pollen has a bitter taste though not so extreme. The bee pollen granules can be mixed with water before ingesting to counter its bitter taste.
Bee pollen can be blended into smoothies or sprinkled on salads. You can also sprinkle it over popcorn. You may as well cook and cool homemade granola then mix it with bee pollen.
Bee pollen is also available in capsules and tablet form. This could be combined with some other beneficial honey bee products such as royal jelly and pistil extracts.
Certain people, especially those with an allergy to bee venom, can experience an allergic reaction to bee pollen. It is therefore advised that you start by taking one granule then build up from there. If you notice any negative responses then discontinue its use.
You should seek the advice of your doctor before using pollen if you have any underlying conditions. A licensed practitioner can also help.
Use bee pollen as directed and never use different forms of the product at the same time. The combined use of the product in different forms will increase the possibility of an overdose. You should also use the product as recommended. For instance, what is meant to be applied to the skin should never be ingested.
Some of the main uses of bee pollen include:
Helps Lower Cholesterol
Studies have shown some positive benefits of pollen when it comes to cholesterol levels in the body. The study showed mice that given bee pollen has the least chance of atherosclerosis. Human studies are yet to confirm the same however.
Bee pollen is rich in phenolic acids and flavonoids. These ingredients boost potent antioxidant properties that help block inflammatory enzymes in the body. Bee pollen can therefore help stop inflammation. Studies have shown bee pollen can reduce inflammation by 75%.
Bee pollen is rich in beneficial nutrients such as enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. The nutrients are in abundance in bee pollen but will vary depending on the plant it was sourced from. Bee pollen is the best source of complete protein. The proteins are available as free amino acids that are ready for immediate absorption and use. It is richer in amino acids when compared to other foods such as eggs, beef, and cheese. Some of the nutrients such as flavonoids found in bee pollen have been proven to improve vascular health and helps control blood sugar.
This is perhaps the most common use of bee pollen. It helps treat seasonal allergies by reducing the body’s sensitivity to various allergens. The bee pollen itself contains traces of common allergens which trigger the production of antibodies to fight allergic reactions.
Harmful Radicals Elimination
The healthy antioxidants in bee pollen help fight free radicals that are harmful to the body cells. These free radicals are the cause of chronic diseases such as cancer. It is worth mentioning that the antioxidant levels will vary depending on the plant source.
Benefit to Immunity
The body’s ability to fight harmful pathogens is greatly enhanced when you take bee pollen. This can be attributed to its antimicrobial and antiviral properties that help keep off harmful pathogens. This helps boost immunity and keep off body diseases.
Bee pollen helps boost liver health. It is rich in antioxidants that help eliminate harmful toxins from the body. This ultimately helps keep the liver healthy thus facilitating faster healing in the damaged liver.
Bee pollen is made one of the best dietary supplements. It boosts overall health and wellbeing. It helps boost reproductive health, improves muscle mass, and also enhances body metabolism. Overall, bee pollen can not only improve overall wellbeing but also increases lifespan.
Healing Process and Stress
Bee pollen helps speed up the healing process. It is used as an ointment on the affected skin, helping speed up healing, kills bacteria, boosting blood circulation, and enriches the skin with moisture.
The fact that bee pollen helps facilitate blood flow throughout the body especially the nervous system helps reduce stress. This also helps eliminate fatigue by pumping in energy throughout the body. Some studies have also shown the tremendous benefit of pollen concerning menopause. Patients who used bee pollen showed fewer symptoms of menopause when compared to those who did not use it.
A Final Word
Pollen is used for so many purposes. It is collected and sold by most beekeepers as a way of generating additional income. It comprises more than 220 components even though it is primarily rich in proteins. Pollen is used widely across several industries, and it can act as a supplement feed for bees during the hardy seasons. It is also consumed directly by humans since it has so many benefits. Other commercial uses of pollen include: plant feeding programs, treatment of allergic conditions, component extractions, and fruit pollination. You can harvest pollen from the honey bee colonies using specially designed traps known as pollen traps that are easy to use. It is also important to keep the utmost hygiene when harvesting pollen meant for human consumption.
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