The awareness about bee pollen and honey has increased but its benefits are yet to be known to many of us. So, we thought about sharing a bit of information on nectar and pollen. Pollen contains protein, fat and other nutrients that are needed by the pollinators while nectar has sugar, vitamin oils, salts and other nutrients that are a source of high energy for pollinators.
Pollen and nectar:
Pollen is a fine powder from the male flower that can fertilize the female flower to produce seeds. Pollen is made by anthers- male reproductive organs that exist in most flowering plants.
Nectar is the sweet substance that is made by some plants so that they attract pollinators like butterflies or bees. Bees collect nectar to convert it into honey. As they collect nectar, pollinators accidentally carry the pollen from male to female flower.
Where does nectar come from?
Nectar actually begins in the leaves of plants. The plant draws in carbon dioxide and water and produces sugar using the energy from the sun. This process is called photosynthesis. The sugar flows through the plant (think sap flow from a Sugar Maple tree). The nectar flows through the plant and feeds it. Roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruit use this sugar supply to grow.
How do Bees Use Nectar?
Worker-foraging bees collect nectar by sucking droplets with their proboscis (a straw-like tongue, see figure below). The nectar on its own provides immediate energy in the form of carbohydrate sugars. Excess nectar is stored in the bee’s stomach until it gets back to the hive.
Once back at the hive, the nectar is passed from bee to bee. An enzyme in the bee’s stomach turns the sugar into diluted honey. This passage also helps remove some of the excess water.
The un-ripe honey is then stored in comb cells where worker bees fan it with their wings to evaporate the rest of the excess water until it becomes honey.
The male part is called the stamen and produces a sticky powder called pollen. The female part is called the pistil and has a sticky end (stigma) which is capable of collecting pollen. Think of the pollen as sperm in the reproductive process. The pollen leaves the male and is received by the female to produce fruit.
Honey is used as a stored food. This is the bee’s winter stockpile for times of the year when flowers are not in bloom.
The bees keep honey in comb cells capped with wax for future use.
Just as gardeners might or freeze excess vegetables from the summer harvest to enjoy throughout the winter, bees essentially do the same. They work all spring and summer so they have plenty of food to make it through the fall and winter.
The process of pollination:
Pollen is fine, typically yellow, the sticky powder that is seen on the male flower parts- stamen. It has to be taken to the female flow part (stigma) of either the same flow i.e. referred to as self-pollination or another flower of the similar species i.e. called cross-pollination to fertile seeds. When plants have roots and cannot move, making this kind of transfer is a challenge. The wind then comes into the picture. It will distribute some types of pollen but most pollen is too heavy. Now, nature has an answer to everything.
Here the pollinators come into the picture. So, the pollinators have to be attracted. How do plants attract pollinators so that they pick up the pollen and transport it? The answer is through sweet, liquid nectar.
Here we would like to point out that different pollinators use nectar and pollen differently. Queen bumblebees utilize pollen to ripen their eggs. They also get nutrition from pollen and use nectar for energy.
Honeybees make bee bread. They mix pollen and nectar with their saliva and feed it to the larvae. But what is popularly known is that bees collect nectar to make honey.
Hummingbirds eat nectar, and pollen is just a side effect of it getting stuck on their tongue as they sip from the tubular flower.
Butterflies are also nectar consumers as they use their long tongue called a proboscis.
Bees need nectar and pollen:
Bees collect nectar and pollen from flowers but why do they need them?
Nectar is an important source of energy – carbohydrate and it supplies a complex range of sugars and pollen gives vital proteins and fats. Not all bees gather pollen though it is also true that all bees need pollen at some stage.
Male bees don’t collect pollen as they don’t have pollen baskets through which they can transport it form flowers to the nest or beehive. The nectar that is gathered by honey bees is carried back to the nest or beehive.
It is used to feed adult bees and is also passed from foraging worker bees to worker house bees and is later deposited into honeycomb cells. There is a process called fanning and evaporation after which the nectar turns into honey. Then it will be capped over with wax by the bees. Now that the nectar is turned into honey it is winter food source for the bees to use when they don’t get access to outside food.
This was our attempt to share some aspects about nectar and pollen. We will be talking about many other things related to organic and natural foods on our blog.
Visit Navmi website www.navmi.co.in to buy bee pollen and honey as the focus of Navmi has always been to reach out to customers with natural and organic foods of the best quality. All its products like coconut oil, flaxseed oil, ghee, A2 milk, different types of natural honey, jaggery, turmeric, etc are all chemical-free. We believe that unprocessed foods contain higher amounts of antioxidants, it reduces risk of heart disease, cancers, and other health issues.
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