I don’t have to explain that honey is all the rage—it has been since the dawn of time. It’s not the only product we can collect from bees, though. Pollen is valuable in its own right and is worth some attention too.
While not an essential piece of beekeeping equipment, you can harvest your own pollen by making use of a pollen trap. They’re easy to install and use, but will require a fair amount of work on your part. At the end of the day, regardless of maintenance, pollen traps serve as a rewarding tool in your beekeeping.
Why Should You Use a Pollen Trap?
There is much appeal in using a pollen trap, be it for observation, to assist your hive, or to harvest the pollen for yourself. Whatever your reason for gathering pollen may be, a pollen trap is a highly useful tool.
There is some debate as to the ethics and necessity of using pollen traps. Some beekeepers believe that they harm the hive by slowing down foragers and decreasing nectar production. There are also beekeepers who say that pollen traps disrupt the natural workings of the bees.
There is no evidence to show that pollen traps will harm your bees or the colony as a whole (unless you are negligent). In fact, pollen traps can help your hive when resources are low. Most beekeepers use pollen traps to make sure that their hive never has to go without.
Beyond that, there is a growing market for bee pollen in medicine, beauty, and health. Just like honey, it’s a resource that humans can make use of too, and nothing is stopping you from grabbing some for yourself.
How to Use a Pollen Trap
A pollen trap is simple enough to install and understand, especially if you know your way around a beehive. Pollen traps are usually made from wood and mesh, or more recently, plastic. They are usually designed specifically for ease of use.
There are many types of pollen traps available including bottom-mounted, side-opening, back-opening, and top-mounted. How much pollen your trap collects depends entirely on its size and capability. The traps, in general, can gather up to 70 percent of foraged pollen.
You’ll place the trap over the entrance of your hive so that returning foragers have no choice but to pass through it. As they do, the pollen that they carry will be brushed off their fur and will fall into the trap’s collection tray. Once you’ve collected your pollen, what you do with it is up to you.
It’s incredibly simple, right?
Not so fast. The idea may be effortless, but pollen traps require a lot of maintenance. There are also a few things you have to consider before you commit to using one.
Maintaining a Pollen Trap
Pollen is volatile and collecting it will demand your unending attention. If you are making use of a pollen trap, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to collect your harvest every single day. If you don’t, the quality of it will deteriorate and it won’t be good enough for your bees (or us).
There are two ways that you can preserve your pollen and both of them require you to work fast.
The simplest thing would be to freeze it as soon as you can. If you’re not looking forward to daily trips to the freezer, or if you’re running out of space, you can also make pollen patties.
For this, you need either soybean flour or brewer’s yeast, and you’ll have to commit to making the patties every day. Neither of these methods is particularly convenient, but you’ll have to pick one of them if you don’t want your pollen to spoil.
You can’t allow your pollen to become wet either. Moisture will ruin it entirely. If it gets wet or is left damp it could grow mold or even start to rot. If your hives are covered properly, this isn’t a problem. If your hives are exposed to rain, you’ll have to be on constant guard to protect it.
Pollen Trap Considerations
You should only use pollen traps on colonies that are strong and healthy enough to handle it. If you harvest from weaker or smaller colonies, you could be robbing the brood of a vital source of food.
You should also stick to pollen harvesting when pollen is abundant. Your bees won’t miss it if there’s enough to go around, but it’s better to leave them be when resources are low.
It’s nice to have a backup when your bees are truly desperate, but you can easily do more harm than good. Harvest your pollen sparingly, and don’t leave your bees to suffer without it.
Pollen traps can be handy, but unless you’re fully dedicated to the effort they require to maintain, you can go without one. The traps are designed to be easy to use—it’s the pollen itself that’s the problem.
Still, pollen is valuable to your hive and to humans. If you’re interested in harvesting it, pollen traps are the way to go. Just know what you’re getting yourself into. They’re not as simple as they seem.