|Bumblebee with Visible Pollen Baskets|
I'm fortunate in that I've never suffered from hay fever - and so pollen has never troubled me. Pollen is shed by flowers as part of their reproductive process and bees become covered in pollen grains when they forage. The bees then pack the pollen into the pollen baskets which are on the outside of their hind legs. Pollen is one of four things collected by foraging bees (with nectar, propolis and water) and it provides them with protein, vitamins and minerals. When they return to the hive, they store the pollen near the broodnest where it is needed. Early pollen i.e. pollen collected in early spring, is essential to feed the bee-larvae and build up the colony.
|Snowdrop: An Early Pollen Source|
I can work out where the bees have been from the colour of the pollen they bring into the hive. Bees have favourite pollen sources; when they learn how to extract the pollen from a particular flower they'll keep going back. Usually, from late March to May, I expect a large amount of pollen coming in to the hive to be bright yellow - because the bees will be foraging in fields of oilseed rape. Bees love this crop and become quite excited in the hive when this is in flower. They often return to the hive not only carrying oilseed rape pollen in their baskets, but also completely covered in the stuff.
|Examples of the Different Colours of Pollen in a Hive|
Homemade Beekeeping Equipment
A field of oilseed rape can yield a huge amount of pollen and nectar for bees. Many beekeepers welcome this as it produces a large, early honey crop, but this honey also has to be dealt with quickly, because it rapidly crystallizes in the comb. To liquify this honey (and any other honey) the honey has to be heated - and many beekeepers buy warming cabinets (or make their own) to achieve this. To save money, we made our own warming cabinet when we replaced our fridge - we converted the older fridge into a warming cabinet by disconnecting the working parts and inserting a light bulb (to add heat) and a digital thermometer to give an accurate reading of temperature inside the cabinet.
|Homemade Warming Cabinet|
|Bee Equipment Carrier|