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Individual Bee Development

Honey bees ingest pollen, nectar, and water collected while foraging to make honey, beebread, and royal jelly.

Pollen is honey bees' only source of protein (including necessary amino acids). Proteins and amino acids are required for a range of body activities, including muscular development, reproduction, digestion, and immune system functions. Lipids, sterols, vitamins, and minerals are all found in pollen.

Pollen is packed into honeycomb cells by honey bees, who then ferment it with honey or nectar and lactic acid bacteria (via bee saliva). The resultant "bee bread" (also known as "ambrosia") is kept and eaten.

Royal jelly is made from bee bread, which is devoured by nurse bees. Royal jelly is a milky white fluid that is essential for the formation of larvae and queens.

Nectar is a sweet, sugary plant liquid that contains carbohydrates that may be turned into energy. In the creation of honey, nectar is also a key element.

Water keeps bees hydrated, which helps them perform all of their biological tasks, including the manufacture of royal jelly.

The components of an individual bee's diet from various food sources might vary depending on its life stage, hive "job," and season.

Pollen replacements and sugar in different forms are occasionally used to boost a colony's natural resources (in syrup, dry, or as fondant).

Concerning Pollen

Pollen is a fine powder made up of small grains that contain a plant's male genetic material, often known as sperm. It is produced by flowering and cone-bearing plants as part of their reproductive process.

"Proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids, and fatty acids, phenolic compounds, enzymes, and coenzymes, as well as vitamins and bioelements" are among the chemical constituents found in pollen.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Pollen contains "essential amino acids," which are required by bees but cannot be produced by them (or other organisms like humans).

Pollen is the only source of protein for honey bees, which have traditionally been considered herbivores. According to a new study, bees may become omnivores by eating "microbial meat." Pollen is present in even "microbial flesh." 

Pollen isn't chosen by bees for its nutritional value. To ensure that bees acquire the right combination of amino acids, a diversity of pollen sources is necessary. This is one of the reasons why monoculture crops (huge growths of just one plant in a given region) may be harmful to honey bee health.

Foragers gather pollen from blossoming plants using their hairs all over their bodies. Saliva transfers and adheres much of the pollen to their rear legs. The most visible pollen carried by a bee on her way back to the hive is in these "pollen baskets."

Pollen from a number of sources is represented by different colored baskets. Orange, yellow, and white baskets are the most common colors carried by our bees.

A bee may visit a variety of plants while gathering pollen. By brushing up against a flower's stamen (the female reproductive component of the plant), the bee pollinates, transmitting male DNA.

Supplements containing pollen

Pollen supplements/substitutes, despite their name, do not include pollen but do contain substances that provide the same proteins and other nutrients as pollen.

We don't advocate giving natural pollen to bees unless it's been irradiated or comes from a reliable source. Pollen from the wild might carry impurities like pesticides or illnesses like foulbrood.

Pollen supplements may include the following ingredients:

  • Brewer's yeast made from soy flour
  • Milk that has been dried
  • Vitamins (A, C, D, Biotin, and Folic Acid) from dried eggs Oils or shortening
  • Essential oils are a kind of oil that is used

Homemade supplements may be manufactured by sugar beekeepers. You may also purchase powders or pre-made patties, such as Mann Lake Ultra Bee Dry Feed, from Amazon.

  • On Amazon, you can find Mann Lake Ultra Bee Patties.
  • On Amazon, you can find Mann Lake Bee Pro Patties.

For additional information on supplementary feeding, see this article on Why, What, How, and When To Feed Honey Bees.


Pollen Consumption by Honey Bees

Pollen is converted into bee bread and royal jelly by bees, who eat the nutrients in it.

Foraging bees gathering pollen are at a stage of development when they are unable to eat the pollen.

Instead, foragers deposit pollen in comb cells and compact it. The pollen is fermented into bee bread by adding honey, and nectar, and releases lactic acid bacteria. This method eliminates moisture from pollen, lowering the risk of mold growth, and preserving it for future use.

Honey bees that are still growing consume bee bread.

Nurse bees that look after the brood consume bee bread and spend a lot of time feeding the baby bees.

Royal Jelly is consumed by honey bees.

Nurse bees produce royal jelly, a creamy white fluid known as "bee milk," by glandular secretion. Water, proteins, sugar, lipids, and vitamins are all found in royal jelly, making it a complete dietary supply.

All larvae are given royal jelly during their first three days of growth, and queens are fed royal jelly throughout their larval period.

The majority of bee bread is found in brood boxes due to the growing bees' requirement for protein.

As the colony's population grows in the spring and summer, pollen becomes more vital, and brood is always present.

The demand for protein decreases in the autumn as the population decreases and the queen stops producing eggs in preparation for the winter. Bees, on the other hand, will continue to manufacture bee bread in order to preserve it for later use.

About Nectar

Nectar is a sugary sweet liquid produced by plant glands called nectaries, which honey bees seek for.

The honey bee sucks the liquid out of the nectary using its proboscis (also known as its tongue). While the forager may consume part of the nectar, the remainder is stored in the stomach, where it is combined with bacteria and enzymes.

When the foragers return to the hive, they feed the nectar to the house bees. The nectar is subsequently stored in the comb and converted to honey by house bees. When the bees have determined that the conversion is complete, they cover the honey with wax.

Supplements with Nectar

White cane sugar is the greatest nectar supplement. Brown sugar or molasses, raw sugar, or high fructose corn syrup should not be offered to bees since these sweeteners might hurt them or induce digestive issues like dysentery.

Sugar comes in a variety of forms that bees will eat:

  • granulated sugar (unusually placed on paper over frames to keep it from dropping right to the bottom)
  • Sugar syrup is prepared by combining sugar and water in various ratios (1:1 or 2:1) depending on the season.
  • Bee candy may come in the shape of simple fondant bricks or sugar bricks.

If there is enough of nectar, bees will usually avoid sugar additions.

Sugar may be treated similarly to nectar by bees. They may keep it and create honey out of it. Bees, on the other hand, cannot produce honey from sugar or sugar syrup. Sugar lacks the enzymes and characteristics of nectar that are required to generate honey.

We don't feed the bees while the supers are on the hive because they can't create honey from sugar. We don't want the fake "honey" to get mixed up with the genuine kind!

This story in the New Yorker Magazine about bees in Brooklyn, NY creating "red honey" using syrup foraged from a maraschino cherry factory could be of interest to you.

Nectar Consumption by Honey Bees

Honey is the principal food source for bees, while nectar may provide nutrients directly when foraging or indirectly as a component of bee bread.


Honey may be stored indefinitely and becomes the colony's principal food supply during nectar deaths, such as those that occur throughout the winter. As a beekeeper, you must keep an eye on your hives' honey storage as winter approaches to ensure that they have enough to live.

Honey is distributed throughout the hive by bees, making it easily accessible. The majority of the honey, however, will be preserved in the higher boxes, known as honey supers.

In the absence of brood, bees will seek food higher up in the hive throughout the winter.


Water hydrates bees in the same way it hydrates humans. It's also useful to bees in other ways.

Honey bees seem to "prefer feeding at compound-rich, 'bad' water sources over pure water sources" that give micronutrients.

Bees help maintain the temperature and humidity of the hive by fanning water.

The royal jelly given to larvae contains a substantial amount of water.

Water is also used by bees to dissolve crystalline honey before it is consumed.

Water is required to digest and metabolize food, just as it is in humans.

Beekeepers may assist their honey bees by providing watering stations during a drought or protracted dry time. To prevent drowning, the finest water stations are shallow and broad.


Proteins and amino acids are required for honey bee development and survival, just as they are for other species. Pollen is bees' sole source of these nutrients.

Sugar in nectar feeds bees with carbohydrates, which they transform into energy.

By turning pollen into bee bread and nectar into honey, honey bees have the incredible capacity to store and keep food for an endless period of time.

Pollen and nectar that are naturally accessible may be scarce at times. Pollen replacements and sugar may be used to boost a colony's diet. It's vital to keep in mind that they are supplements, not complete replacements.