The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861

Beekeeping Topics

Pollen Trapping for fun and Profit

- May 1, 2015 - Ray Nabors - (excerpt)

How about trapping pollen for fun and profit? Pollen trapping can be tough on a hive of bees if the pollen trap is too efficient. Many front-of-hive pollen traps are less efficient and easier to use. The first question should be why we want to trap pollen? Let’s explore the aspects of pollen trapping in turn.

There are two very good reasons to trap pollen. The first one is to increase profits from your colonies of bees. Many people want to buy pollen for direct consumption. Local honey helps many people get through the allergy seasons in spring and fall more comfortably. The reason local honey helps is because it includes pollen fragments from a variety of local sources. Your nectar sources for a given super of honey will probably come mostly from 3 – 5 sources. The pollen fragments may come from 10 – 25 sources. Bees visit more different sources for pollen than for nectar. Grass plants do not produce nectar, but bees will readily collect the pollen. If bees are working flowers near a corn field for nectar, they will pick up large quantities of corn pollen blown across the flowers by wind.

Plants can be separated by pollination type. Anemophilus means wind-pollinated, whereas entomophilus means insect-pollinated. Most pollen that triggers an allergic reaction is wind-pollinated. If you think about it, that is logical. If a plant pollinates by wind, it must produce a large amount of pollen to be effective. Large amounts of pollen on the wind land everywhere like dust. This pollen will be available where bees are working for nectar. The economy of bees is legendary. If there is pollen on the petals, they pick it up. Hence, we have many more pollen sources than nectar sources in our honey.

When folks consume local honey, it is laced with pollen fragments from local plants that cause many allergies. Goldenrod is a plant known to cause allergic reactions in 25% of the human population. Ragweed (common and giant) are known to cause allergic reactions in 33% of the human population. More people are allergic to one or the other than are allergic to both. Those two plants cause allergic reactions in nearly half the population. Grasses are notorious for causing allergic reactions. As a group more than 1 of 3 people will have some allergic reaction to some plants in the grass family. Bees collect a lot of pollen from multiple species of grasses and Anemophilus flowering plants.

If a person goes to an allergy specialist and tests positive to allergic reactions for plants, it is the pollen that causes most symptoms. The doctor will prescribe shots if needed. The shots contain small amounts of the offending plants including pollens. Injections can be the best solution to an allergy problem. However, they become more painful as the dose increases. Most people stop the injections at some point. Honey laced with pollen may not be as effective as injections, but the principle is the same. Honey laced with pollen fragments works the same way as the pollen shots. Pollen taken directly works that way as well.

It is difficult for people to digest pollen proteins when the pollen coat is intact. Bees can digest whole pollen much more efficiently than people. The pollen fragments in collected pollen and honey are digestible by people. It is these fragments which help relieve allergy symptoms for many people. The reason only local honey and pollen works this way is because only local honey and pollen have fragments of the pollen sources where you reside. It is the local pollen that is causing the allergy to begin with. On the other hand, honey produced from Asia, Europe, South America and Australia is not going to help relieve allergy problems for anyone in the United States.

The most efficient pollen traps fit directly above  …