What Do Bees Collect from Flowers?

by Jennifer

Bees are crucial pollinators in ecosystems worldwide, playing a fundamental role in the reproduction of flowering plants. As they flit from flower to flower, bees collect various substances that are essential for their survival and that of their colonies. Understanding what bees collect from flowers sheds light on the intricate relationships between these pollinators and the plant species they interact with. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of bee foraging behavior, exploring the substances they gather from flowers and their significance.


Nectar: Nature’s Sweet Reward

One of the primary substances bees collect from flowers is nectar. Nectar is a sugary fluid produced by specialized glands within flowers called nectaries. Bees use their long, tube-like mouthparts, known as proboscis, to extract nectar from deep within the floral structures. This sugary liquid serves as the primary energy source for bees, providing them with the carbohydrates necessary for their metabolic needs.

The composition of nectar can vary among plant species, but it typically consists of water, sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Bees collect nectar by visiting flowers and transferring it to their crop—a specialized storage organ located in their digestive system. Once the foraging bee returns to the hive, it regurgitates the nectar to other worker bees, who then process it into honey through a combination of enzymatic activity and dehydration.

Pollen: Essential Protein Source

In addition to nectar, bees collect pollen from flowers. Pollen grains contain the male reproductive cells of flowering plants and are rich in proteins, amino acids, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. Bees use specialized structures on their bodies, such as their legs and bodies’ hairs, to collect pollen grains while foraging.

As bees visit flowers to gather nectar, they inadvertently brush against the reproductive organs of the plant, causing pollen grains to adhere to their bodies. These grains are then transferred from flower to flower as the bee moves, facilitating the process of pollination. Pollen collected by bees serves as a crucial protein source for the development and maintenance of bee colonies, particularly for the growth of larvae and the production of royal jelly—a nutrient-rich secretion fed to young bees.

Propolis: Nature’s Bee Glue

In addition to nectar and pollen, bees collect a substance known as propolis from certain plants. Propolis, often referred to as “bee glue,” is a resinous material produced by bees by mixing plant resins with wax and enzymes. Bees use propolis to seal cracks and crevices within the hive, reinforcing its structure and protecting it from external threats such as predators and pathogens.

The composition of propolis can vary depending on the plants available to the bees, but it typically contains a complex mixture of polyphenols, flavonoids, terpenes, and other organic compounds with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Bees collect propolis by scraping resin from plant buds, bark, and other botanical sources, then transporting it back to the hive in specialized pollen baskets on their hind legs.

Water: Vital for Hive Regulation

While nectar, pollen, and propolis are the primary substances bees collect from flowers, water also plays a crucial role in bee biology. Bees require water for various purposes, including regulating hive temperature, diluting honey for consumption, and hydrating themselves and their larvae.

Bees collect water from various natural sources, including ponds, streams, and puddles, as well as from moist soil and plant surfaces. They use their mouthparts to collect water droplets, which they then transport back to the hive in their crop. Once inside the hive, water is distributed among colony members as needed, contributing to the overall health and functioning of the bee colony.


Bees collect a diverse array of substances from flowers, each serving a vital role in their survival and that of their colonies. From nectar, the primary energy source, to pollen, the essential protein source, and propolis, nature’s bee glue, bees rely on these floral resources to thrive in their environment. Understanding what bees collect from flowers not only sheds light on the intricate interactions between bees and flowering plants but also highlights the importance of conserving these ecosystems for the benefit of both pollinators and humans alike.


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