Honey bees make honey from nectar to fuel their flight – and our sweet tooth. But they also need pollen for protein. So they trap, brush and pack it into baskets on their legs to make a special food called bee bread.
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DEEP LOOK is an ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.
Spring means honey bees flitting from flower to flower. This frantic insect activity is essential to growing foods like almonds, raspberries, and apples. Bees move pollen, making it possible for plants to grow the fruit and seeds they need to reproduce.
But honey bees don’t just move pollen from plant to plant. They also keep a lot for themselves. They carry it around in neat little balls, one on each of their hind legs. Collecting, packing, and making pollen into something they can eat is a tough, intricate job that’s essential to the colony’s well-being.
Older female adult bees collect pollen and mix it with nectar or honey as they go along, then carry it back to the hive and deposit it in cells next to the developing baby bees, called larvae. This stored pollen, known as bee bread, is the colony’s main source of protein.
“You don’t have bees flying along snacking on pollen as they’re collecting it,” said Mark Carroll, an entomologist at the US Department of Agriculture’s Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson. “This is the form of pollen that bees are eating.”
— What is bee bread?
It’s the pollen that worker honey bees have collected, mixed with a little nectar or honey and stored within cells in the hive.
— What is bee bread used for?
Bee bread is the main source of protein for adult bees and larvae. Young adult bees eat bee bread to make a liquid food similar to mammal’s milk that they feed to growing larvae; they also feed little bits of bee bread to older larvae.
— How do honey bees use their pollen basket?
When a bee lands on a flower, it nibbles and licks off the pollen, which sticks to its head. It wipes the pollen off its eyes and antennae with a brush on each of its front legs, using them in tandem like windshield wipers. It also cleans the pollen off its mouth part, and as it does this, it mixes it with some saliva and a little nectar or honey that it carries around in a kind of stomach called a crop.
Then the bee uses brushes on its front, middle and hind legs to move the pollen, conveyor-belt style, front to middle to back. As it flies from bloom to bloom, the bee combs the pollen very quickly and moves it into baskets on its hind legs. Each pollen basket, called a corbicula, is a concave section of the hind leg covered by longish hairs that bend over and around the pollen.
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Original of the video here
[Music][Music]okay time to head to work but beforethis honeybee starts her commute she’sprepping her tools because honey beescollect pollen you knew that but it’snot as simple as you might thinkplants want the bees to carry the pollenaway and spread it to other flowersthat’s pollination how plants reproducebut bees also need to carry lots of athome pollen is a protein-packed food forthe hive luckily they have the rightgear they’re hairy like tiny flyingteddy bears she’s covered in 3 millionhairs for trapping pollen they’re evenon her eyes here on her legs they’reshaped into spiky brushes and flat combswhen she lands on a bloomshe really gets in there nibbling on theflowers anthers detaches the pollen timeto pack up her haul she cleans it offher eyes and antennae with those brusheson her front legs like windshield wipershere it is up close that leg wipes thepollen right off her eye then she movesthe pollen from leg to leg like aconveyor belt front to middle to backthe bee does this superfast while sheflies from bloom to bloom moving thepollen into special baskets on her backlegs called core piccoli she bends herleg using it to squish the pollen into aball packing it together with a littlesaliva and nectar she can get as many as160,000 pollen grains into each ballshe’s hauling as much as one-third ofher weight back at the hive meal prep isabout to start but the pollen isn’t formaking honey the honey under this wax ismade from nectar they eat it for itssugar bees turn pollen into somethingcompletely differentbee bread that’s their source of proteinstep 1 find an open spot step 2deposit your goods and pack them neatlystep 3 let the pollen marinate with ahint of honeyand voila it’s ready the pantry isstocked both for adult beasts and thebabies that are growing in the cellsnext doorthe adults pop in to drop off a specialB bread snack a little home cooking forthe hive’s future hard-working fliersokay more bees will keep them comingblue orchard bees build nests that looklike stunning jewels and Bumble thesereally have to shake what they’ve got toget their pollen one more thing if youlove deep look why not join our hivemind on patreon today we’ve got alimited time offer to sweeten the deallink is in the description thanks