SuperTalk Mississippi

Why bees & pollen show up in spring

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Harris

While many people are excited about Spring approaching, they are not excited about the pollen that comes with it. Millions of people with seasonal allergies will be affected by the airborne pollen.

Jeff Harris, a beekeeper and extension professor at Mississippi State University, gave us a little more information on why the pollen count is so high around this time of year.

“What’s happening right now is a lot of our pollen is tree pollen and the trees are starting to bud out and bloom and many of these trees use wind to move the pollen around so you get wind-blown pollen, which we are seeing everywhere right now,” Harris said. “It’s so bad right now because not only trees, but flowers and other plants are in heavy bloom.”

He also wants everyone to know that pollen is a food source for bees because when he talks to students, most of them are not aware of that.

Harris said that bees have two foods, one is the honey and one is the pollen. Honey is basically sugar, which is their energy food, and bees need other things like amino acids, vitamins and minerals and all of that comes from pollen, so bees eat the pollen as well. Bees do not collect all the pollen that causes allergies, like pine pollen, and the pollen usually doesn’t end up in the honey.

“When I tell them that, you see the lights go off and they then fully understand, ‘Oh, bees are collecting pollen because it’s their food and then that helps us’,” said Harris. “For some reason kids understand that bees are good for pollination but they don’t understand why the bees are good for the pollen.”

Harris said he is trying to let everyone know that the bees are collecting it because they eat it. In fact, bee colonies can’t grow without it. They have to have pollen so they can raise their baby bees and if they don’t get it they can’t grow their families and can’t grow very large colonies.

He also said there’s not much you can do if you are allergic to the pollen other than to avoid it and take allergy medicine, but there is one theory that dermatologists and allergists believe work.

“There is a notion in beekeeping that beekeepers will tell you,” said Harris. “One idea is if you could eat honey that has pollen in it from the plant that causes your hay fever, you can actually get relief if you eat it ahead of time, so the idea is to eat the allergen that causes the hay fever.”

Harris explained that if you get a fall allergy, it’s not going to do any good to eat a spring honey. You need to eat a honey as close to your area as possible and as close to the time of year as possible that you get your major allergies and you might get some relief if you eat the honey regularly.

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