Honey Bees in the Garden: Pollen, a Rainbow of Nutrition

Posted by @Mindy03 on
It's officially spring and also pollen season. For allergy sufferers pollen is something to hate but for honey bees it's the main source of nutrition. And it comes in all colors just like the food we eat.

Pollen is the honey bee's source of complete nutrition, containing 20-35% protein, sugars, enzymes, minerals and vitamins.  Pollen is essential for the development of young bees.

 Pollen from some plants may not contain all the nutrition a honey bee needs.  The best sources contain at 2011-03-26/Mindy03/488380least 25% protein.   The amount of nutrition in pollen is dependent upon the plant and it's growing environment.  Pollen nutrition from plants in the same genus is usually the same.  A plant that produces a large amount of pollen doesn't necessarily mean it is providing high quality pollen.  Plants with pollen that provides 20% or lower protein means a honey bee has to collect more of it to provide for their needs.  Plants providing 25% or higher protein mean less work for the foragers.


Pollen color doesn't have much bearing on the nutritive value a plant provides.  Plants in the same family tend to have the same color of pollen.  Pollen comes in a rainbow of colors from white to black.  Here's a short list of plants that provide different colors of pollen collected by honey bees. 

 Siberian Squill Blue

Snowdrops Red

 2011-03-26/Mindy03/180ca4Asparagus Orange

Sweet Almond  Brown

American Elm Grey

Large Flowered Clematis White




                                          Honey be2011-03-26/Mindy03/da72e8es need a variety of different colored pollen for good health just as we need different varieties of food for the same reason.







Are you  providing a colorful bounty for your local honey bees?    


Sweet Almond, Clematis and Asparagus photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Peach blossom thumbnail is my own

Nutrition information courtesy of Fat Bees/Skinny Bees a publication produced by Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation which can be found here:


For more discussion on planting to attract honey bees and butterflies, please visit our forum: Gardening for Butterflies







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