Bees need both protein and carbohydrates. The bees’ carbohydrates mainly come from nectar. Protein comes from pollen. Pollen originates from the male parts of flowers, known as anthers. The bees collect pollen and store them in pellets in sacks on their legs, known as “pollen baskets.”
The photo above shows a bee carrying a full load of pollen. When the bees enter the hive they carry their pollen to the brood nest, and typically offload it into honeycomb cells directly over the brood nest.
Pollen is a key ingredient in the “worker jelly” that the nurse bees feed to the developing larvae. It is also a key ingredient in royal jelly, which is the essential food of a developing queen. Abundant pollen means abundant royal jelly, which means quality queen honey bees. It is no surprise that the healthiest queen honeybees are raised in locations where there are abundant pollen flows.
Sometimes when inspecting a hive, you will see bees walking around with pollen still in their baskets. Are they headed to offload it, or are they just showing off their excellent “pollen pants” to their sisters?