Bee pollen (or bee bread or a pollen ball) is a mass of pollen that has been packed by worker honeybees into granules with added honey or nectar. Bee pollen is found in brood cells, chambers of wood and mud created by female ground-nesting bees. When the pollen ball is complete, a single female lays an egg on top of the pollen ball, and seals the brood cell. Pollen balls are harvested as food for humans. Bee pollen is sometimes referred to as ambrosia.
Foraging bees bring pollen back to the hive, where they pass it off to other worker bees, who pack the pollen into cells with their heads. During the packing, the pollen is mixed with nectar, enzymes, fungi, and bacterial organisms. Bee pollen is the primary source of protein for the hive.
Like royal jelly, honey, and propolis, other well-known honey bee products, the exact chemical composition depends on the plants the worker bees gather the pollen from, and can vary from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, colony to colony, even in the same apiary, with no two samples of bee pollen exactly identical. Accordingly, chemical and nutritional analyses of bee pollen apply only to the specific samples being tested, and cannot be extrapolated to samples gathered in other places or other times. Although there is no specific chemical composition, the average composition is said to be 55% carbohydrates, 35% proteins, 3% minerals and vitamins, 2% fatty acids, and 5% diverse other components. A recent study of bee pollen samples showed that they may contain 188 kinds of fungi and 29 kinds of bacteria.
Use as a health supplement
Bee pollen has been touted by herbalists as a treatment for a variety of medical conditions, but there is no scientific evidence to show that it is has any health benefits. Bee pollen is safe for short term use, but side effects include allergic reaction (shortness of breath, hives, swelling, and anaphylaxis). Bee pollen is not safe for pregnant women and should not be used during breastfeeding. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against the use of some bee pollen products because they are adulterated with unapproved drugs including sibutramine and phenolphthalein.
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