The Pollen Gathering Process

Today we will focus on one part of the honey bee – the corbicula (located on the upper section of the hind legs), called the pollen basket.

The design of the corbicula is highly modified with an arrangement of body hairs creating an intricate pattern to aid the honey bee worker with collecting pollen in heavy loads during flight.

On the image, you can see a few key points that we will discuss in this article—the corbicula (a special part of the tibia aptly named the pollen basket). The basitarus, which has hairs known as combs. The honey bee collects pollen grains from its body hairs which are statically charged which collect pollen from near the honey bee. The honey bee forager will also gather it directly from the anthers of flowers (the male part of a flower that contains pollen) and pass these grains to the foreleg and to the mid-leg down to the combs on the basitarus.

The honey bee pollen forager will hover and pass pollen grains from the comb to the rake (special hairs on the corbicula that make up the pollen basket). It will then take pollen from the rake and pass it to the pollen press, which quite literally presses the pollen into the pollen basket, forming a pollen basket.

The bee will do this quickly mid-flight going from one hind leg to the other, passing the grains of pollen up to the pollen press in order to compact it on the pollen basket(corbicula).

Most of the time, when the honey bee arrives back to the hive, it will back up into a ready cell and use its first two legs to remove the pollen from its pollen basket into the cell. Sometimes it may need some help unloading with heavier loads of pollen or propolis.

By this time, the pollen has already started converting into bee bread since the forager added a small amount of honey/nectar, which adds beneficial bacteria to the pollen.

This is just one overview of one role in the honey beehive. They do this day in and day out during the season, loyally supporting the colony’s best interests.

Article References:

  1. The Beekeeper’s Handbook pages 13-14
  2. Honey Bee Biology pages 64-65

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