How to collect raw honeybee pollen from the hive

Summary

Pollen is collected by the honeybees from the anthers of flowers while they visit them. Pollen is stored in the pollen baskets on the posterior legs of the bees and brought to the hive. To make the pollen stick together, the bees add some saliva and nectar. In the hive, it is stored in the honey combs, and used as food for the bees. Bee pollen is the primary source of protein for the hive. Pollen pellets can be harvested as food for humans because of their rich content in vitamins, proteins and minerals. This technology explains how to collect raw pollen from movable frame hives.

Description

Pollen grains are small, male reproduction units formed in the anthers of the flowering plants (see Picture 1). The pollen is transferred onto the stigma of a flower (a process called pollination) by either wind, water or various animals (mostly insects), among which bees (almost 30,000 different species) are the most important ones.

Picture 1: Close up of a lily flower. The anthers (large yellow structures) release pollen in such abundance that it falls onto the petals. Note also the pollen grains adhering to the stigma surface. (Photo courtesy of F. Intoppa)

The pollen collected by honeybees is usually mixed with nectar in order to make it stick together and adhere to their hind legs (see Picture 2). A foraging honeybee rarely collects both pollen and nectar from more than one species of flowers during one trip. Thus the resulting pollen pellet on its hind leg contains only one or very few pollen species. Accordingly, the pollen pellet has a typical colour, most frequently yellow, but red, purple, green, orange and a variety of other colours occur (see Picture 3). 

Picture 2: Bee on a flower with a pollen pellet on its hind leg (Photo courtesy of A. Bruder)

Picture 3: Different colored pollen pellets collected by honey bees (Photo courtesy of F. Intoppa)

Pollen is an extremely rich food. It is composed mainly of proteins and amino-acids, fats and carbohydrates (sugars). It contains also a rich variety of minerals, vitamins and trace elements.  Therefore, the beekeeper can collect pollen and generate extra income by selling pollen as a food supplement. 

Extreme care should be taken that pollen is not contaminated by bees collecting from flowers treated with pesticides. During, and for several days or weeks after treatment of fields or forests in an area of several square kilometers around the apiary, no pollen should be collected. This is independent of the method of pesticide application. Since a pollen pellet is collected from many flowers, even small quantities of pesticides per flower can be accumulated rapidly to reach significant concentrations.

Pollen should not be collected during the treatment of colonies for bee diseases as the treatment could contaminate the pollen.

1. How to collect pollen from the hive:

Pollen pellets are removed from the bees before they enter the hive by using a pollen trap (see Picture 4). The efficiency of this method rarely exceeds 50%, i.e. less than 50% of the returning foragers loose their pollen pellets, which is good because pollen is essential food for the bees, and removing pollen means depriving bees of part of their food.  Bees are ingenious in finding ways to avoid losing their pellets, like small holes or uneven screens and may even rob pollen from the collecting trays, if access is possible.  The beekeeper should only collect pollen from the hive during spring and summer when pollen is abundant in nature.  

Picture 4: An exemple of a pollen trap designed to fit into a hive entrance. The screen through which the bees have to pass can be made of a thick plastic sheet (at least 3 mm) with holes of 4.7 mm diameter for European honey bees and of 4.2 mm diameter for smaller bees such as from African races. A net on the floor retains the pollen waiting for the beekeeper to collect it later (Photo courtesy of A. Bruder).

2. When should pollen be collected:

Pollen should be collected daily in humid climates but less frequently in drier climates. To avoid deterioration of the pollen and growth of bacteria, molds and insect larvae, pollen should be dried or frozen (please see the technology “How to process pollen”) immediately after collection. 

 

3. How to build a pollen trap:

Picture 5: Pollen trap

Figure 6: The pollen trap fits on the entrance of the hive

 

List of necessary materials:

  1. One piece of wood with ½’’ thick
  2. Metalic mesh sieve
  3. Plastic plate with perforations of 5 mm
  4. Metalic board
  5. 10 nails of an inch

 

How to build the pollen trap:

  • Roof:  Plywood rectangle

  • Front and rear of the pollen trap: Two wooden rectangles with two lateral guides to slip the mesh sieve and the metallic board for the base

  • Lateral supports of the pollen trap:  Two pieces of wood with slope at the top to drain the water from the roof

  • Painted plastic plate:

  • Metallic board to retain the pollen:

  • Perforations of 5 mm on the plastic plate:

  • Metallic mess sieve:

How to build it:  

Lateral cuts:

  • Horizontal cut on one of the side supports for sliding of the metal base
  • Vertical cut on both side supports for insertion of the perforated plastic plate

 

Lateral guide cuts:

  • One guide cut to slide the top metallic mess sieve
  • One guide cut to slide the bottom metallic board to retain the pollen

  • Slats nailed to the lateral support on an internal separation of 4.5 cm

  • Nail the roof on the superior side of the lateral supports

  • On the lateral support, where will be place the plastic perforated board, make a hole with 0,8 cm for drone circulation in and out of the hive and put one piece of foil as a door

 

  • To finalize it insert the painted plastic plate and the bottom metallic board

How it looks like:

Picture 7: Pollen trap installed on the entrance of the hive

 

This technology is extracted from the publication “Value added products of the beehive” and compiled and completed by Antonio Couto.

This technology is extracted from the FAO publication “Value added products of thebeehive” (http://www.fao.org/docrep/w0076e/w0076e00.htm#con) and compiled and completed by Antonio Couto.

Further reading

FAO.1996. Value-added products from beekeeping (http://www.fao.org/docrep/w0076e/w0076e00.htm)

Created date

Fri, 27/05/2016 - 14:09

Source(s)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
FAO's mandate
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts - to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
FAO's mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.

Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación (FAO)
El mandato de la FAO
Alcanzar la seguridad alimentaria para todos, y asegurar que las personas tengan acceso regular a alimentos de buena calidad que les permitan llevar una vida activa y saludable, es la esencia de las actividades de la FAO.El mandato de la FAO consiste en mejorar la nutrición, aumentar la productividad agrícola, elevar el nivel de vida de la población rural y contribuir al crecimiento de la economía mundial.

Organization des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture
Le mandat de la FAO
Atteindre la sécurité alimentaire pour tous est au coeur des efforts de la FAO - veiller à ce que les êtres humains aient un accès régulier à une nourriture de bonne qualité qui leur permette de mener une vie saine et active.
Le mandat de la FAO consiste à améliorer les niveaux de nutrition, la productivité agricole et la qualité de vie des populations rurales et contribuer à l’essor de l’économie mondiale.

Country: 
Italy