Bee pollen is a ball or pellet of field-gathered flower pollen packed by worker honeybees. It is used as the primary food source for the hive. It consists of simple sugars, protein, minerals and vitamins, fatty acids, and a small percentage of other components. Also called bee bread, or ambrosia, it is stored in brood cells, mixed with saliva, and sealed with a drop of honey. Bee pollen is harvested as food for humans with various health claims.
Like honey and propolis, other well-known honey bee products that are gathered rather than secreted, 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. Although there is no specific chemical composition, the average composition is said to be 40–60% simple sugars (fructose and glucose), 20–60% proteins, 3% minerals and vitamins, 1–32% fatty acids, and 5% diverse other components. A 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. However, there is no good evidence that bee pollen has any health benefits other than as a source of nutrition. Potential risks of consuming bee pollen include contamination by fungal mycotoxins, pesticides, or toxic metals. Bee pollen is safe for short term use, but for those with pollen allergies, allergic reactions may occur (shortness of breath, hives, swelling, and anaphylaxis). Bee pollen is not safe for pregnant women and should not be used during breastfeeding.