The pollen basket or corbicula is part of the tibia on the hind legs of the four related lineages of apid bees that used to compose the family Apidae: the honey bees, bumblebees, stingless bees, and orchid bees. The corbicula ("little basket") is a polished cavity surrounded by a fringe of hairs, into which the pollen is placed; most other bees possess a structure called the scopa, which is similar in function, but is a dense mass of branched hairs into which pollen is pressed, with pollen grains held in place in the narrow spaces between the hairs. A honey bee moistens the forelegs with its protruding tongue and brushes the pollen that has collected on its head, body and forward appendages to the hind legs. The pollen is transferred to the pollen comb on the hind legs and then combed, pressed, compacted, and transferred to the corbicula on the outside surface of the tibia of the hind legs. A single hair functions as a pin that secures the middle of the pollen load. Honey and/or nectar is used to moisten the dry pollen, producing the product known as bee pollen or bee bread. The mixing of the pollen with nectar or honey changes the color of the pollen. The color of the pollen can identify the pollen source.
Karl von Frisch and other bee researchers have observed that individual honey bees vary in their efficiency in packing pollen into the pollen basket; some are more efficient, others less. It takes an individual worker bee from three to eighteen minutes to complete a pollen load and return to the hive.
- George Gordh, Gordon Gordh, David Headrick, A Dictionary of Entomology, Science, 2003; 1040 pages; pg.713
- Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Apiformes) Encyclopedia of Entomology 2008. Vol. 2, pages 419-434
- Cedric Gillott, Entomology, Springer, 1995; 798 pages; pg. 79
- Dorothy Hodges, The Pollen Loads of the Honeybee, published by Bee Research Association Limited, 1952
- Karl von Frisch: Aus dem Leben der Bienen, Springer-Verlag 1953
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