Bee gathers pollen from thistle and packs it on her belly hairs

Bees are the pollinators of the world, gathering pollen from flowers to make their honey. The pollen is made of simple sugars, protein, vitamins and minerals. When combined with bee saliva, a fermentation process begins. A biochemical transformation takes place, breaking down the walls of the flower pollen grains and making the nutrients more readily available. Ironically, the bees that gather the pollen cannot actually eat it. They lack the proteolytic enzymes to digest it. Instead, they eat a substance known as bee bread, which is created in the cells in the hive. In the process of gathering pollen, some of the grains are transferred from the male part of the flower to the female part, allowing reproduction to occur. This is the process that is crucial to the production of most fruit, vegetables and the breeding of other plants. It is widely known that without bees, the world would be at risk of losing the majority of plants, and with them, many animals. We understand our dependence on the survival and health of these tiny creatures. This bee is gathering pollen on a beautiful thistle flower. Usually, bees pack pollen on their leg hairs, resembling small yellow baskets. They carry the pollen back to the nest with these baskets that look a lot like saddle bags on a motorcycle. But this bee actually packs the pollen onto her underbelly, using a deliberate patting motion with her hind legs. The thistle is a gorgeous backdrop for such a spectacular little beast. She is more than beautiful. She is critical.