The Pollen Hive Product, An Overview (Part 2)
By Harrison Overholt
Editor’s Note: Marking his 19th season in the apiary, Harrison Overholt is a member of the Allen County (KY) Beekeepers. He manages about 35 hives for pollination, honey/pollen production, in south central Kentucky.
His inspiration for beekeeping began after the sudden death of his cousin, beekeeper J. R. Epley, as well as consideration for replacement of farm income from the tobacco income loss. He holds membership in the Kentucky State Beekeepers Association and the Tennessee Beekeepers Association.
Last month we carried part 1 of this article, covering such things as collecting, drying, cleaning and storing. You may obtain that article, and all previous articles, from www.kelleybees.com.
Package pollen according to your market requests. Product labeling regulations vary from state to state somewhat. Here in Kentucky the label is to contain the name of the product, your name / logo, a way for the consumer to contact you such as an address, phone, email, and the weight listed in grams and ounces.
Some consumers may want the drying stage of pollen bypassed, feeling pollen is a healthier product without the drying. In this case, be sure to keep the pollen refrigerated, as the moisture level will cause mold on the room temperature shelf of the retail outlet.
The pollen market may be a little more evasive than for honey, as everyone may not understand what pollen is for. A possible outlet is your area nutrition store; they carry bee pollen and may not have a local source from which to acquire it. Working with small businesses can be very rewarding and their consumers are usually glad to know the producer is local.
When you are a partner with the retail outlet, be sure to be aware of the shelf space you are allotted. They make money with stocked shelves, and will not tolerate a long absence in inventory. Small businesses will understand a seasonal inventory and if you communicate with them about the time of availability, they will be some of your best life friends.
Any marketing will always enhance your product. Here in Kentucky we have the “Kentucky Proud” program signifying local processing and/or grown. If you are not inclined to partner in the retail arena, there is a demand for wholesale pollen in quantity, such as for the racehorse industry, but the price will be lower. Also check the bee industry magazines for ads on purchasing pollen.
An often-asked question is: how much pollen can a beehive produce and remain healthy?
Of course, it will depend upon the time of year, as rainfall and temperature affect the plant life and their reproduction schedule. The age of the queen and bees, as well as the volume of harvest bees will also govern the amount of need and capabilities of foraging plants for pollen.
This question is a great way for a drone to buzz around and you will wonder what is the answer. I previewed my 2012 product and can suggest some idea. I like the two hive body management within my operation; this is also the size of pollination hives I contract. Last year, eight pollination hives returned from watermelon in early July, and these hives were not in honey production. They were good, strong hives with healthy young queens.
In Kentucky, temperatures and moisture in July and August affect plants, animals, and man, and not always for great productivity, yet life must go on.
Between July 18th and July 30th, at three different locations within one mile of each other, I installed these eight hives with the bottom traps for pollen collection. The traps remained in collection until October 13th, and produced a little over 100 pounds of pollen during this period. A note: when a killing frost happens, the pollen harvest ends that day.
I hope this will intrigue a little of your beekeeping adventure skills and management of your girls will be a sweet and successful venture.