Pollen Sacs

How some bees carry and store pollen

What are Pollen Sacs?

Bumble bees and Honey bees have a very interesting system for storing pollen, which begins with pollen collection. Because they are extremely fuzzy animals, pollen sticks to them every time they visit flowers.

It sticks to their antennae, their legs, their faces, their bodies. They become one giant pollen magnet.

Pollen Sac on Bumble Bee

One interesting things about bees (and apparently beetles and ants), "Nature" has provided a special structure just for cleaning their antennae.

Located on their front legs is a special notch.

The inside curve of this notch is lined with a fringe of hairs that work like a comb.

If you have taken some time to observe insects, you will notice they wash themselves a lot . It will draw its antennae through this notch, and the comb-like hairs brush off pollen and any other debris that might be there.

With these bees, the middle legs are also equipped with brush- (or comb-) like hairs. These are run over the body, scraping off the collected pollen. From here the pollen is transferred to the pollen presses located on the hind legs, or the Pollen Sacs.

Now, take a good look at those back legs.

Just like us, the bee’s legs have a tibia, which is the lower leg . On Bumble bees for example, the tibia is flat, somewhat convex, shiny and surrounded by hairs, some of which are rather long and stiff. This forms what is called the pollen basket. Located at the lower end of the tibia is a comb-like structure, and on the metatarsus is the press. These two structures work together like levers.

The pollen (which has been moistened with nectar to make it sticky) is transferred to the press and the bee manipulates the press and comb to press the pollen onto the bottom part of the flattened tibia. Each new batch of pollen is pressed onto the bottom of the Pollen Sac, pushing the previous batches further up.

When the Pollen Sac or basket is full, it will bulge with upwards of one million grains of pollen. The hairs that surround the tibia hold the pollen in place while the bee flies from place to place, either collecting more pollen, drinking nectar, or flying back home to stock the nest with this carefully gathered food, which is what
the offspring will eat when they hatch.

Honey Bee and Pollen Sac

Many of our bees don't have Sacs and collect pollen on their hairy bodies.

Orchard Mason Bees and Leafcutter Bees come to mind. Often you will notice these bees covered in pollen. Once they get back to their nest, they clean up and stuff the pollen around each egg.

The more you can learn about bees, the more interesting they
will become.

Pollen Sacs and Bumble Bees

Honey Bees

Attracting Pollinators

Protecting Our Pollinators


Pollination Primers


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