Last Updated on November 6, 2022
Does bee pollen expire? Yes. Much like any biological substance, it degrades slowly over time. Follow more to find out what the modes of action are that cause bee pollen to expire.
What Is Bee Pollen?
There are many different forms of pollen that we could refer to as “bee pollen”. Hence if we trap pollen using a pollen trap, the pollen will be pretty much as the bees collected it from the flowers. Bees pack some of this pollen into combs as stores – this will typically be dry pollen, and sometimes it is covered with honey.
If the bees are preparing the pollen to make food for themselves, they make “bee bread” which is a mixture of pollen and nectar that has a rich population of probiotic yeast and bacteria in it. Bee bread is something that you can harvest and eat from a hive – if you have your own hives or perform bee removals. This is potentially very beneficial for your own health if you eat this fermented honey.
In this article, we will take “bee pollen” to mean that pollen is harvested from hives using pollen traps. In this regard, the pollen looks like little balls that are different colors depending on the source of the flower from which the bee collected the pollen. These are dry, and quite hard.
Does Bee Pollen Expire?
If we ask ourselves this question, we need to look at the chemistry of pollen. It contains proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), vitamins, and various other nutrients. Lipids are prone to going rancid – this means that with time, bee pollen, as with any lipid-containing substance, will begin to develop a rancid smell. This indicates a decline in the quality of the fat or lipid component of the pollen. You can compare this to a bottle of vegetable oil – if you keep it for a few years it starts to smell rancid and gets all slimy and disgusting. Does bee pollen expire – yes! It begins to taste worse with time. It does not become poisonous, it just tastes worse.
The other components in bee pollen are far less likely to degrade over time, but they will, over a period of years or even decades degrade. The shell of pollen is very robust, and this means that palynology, the study of small organic particles such as pollen and spores, allows us to peer back into layers of soil and even fossils and learn about plant pollen from many many millions of years ago.
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What Does Bee Pollen Taste Like?
On average pollen tastes a bit like a sour marshmallow together with the weird metallic taste you get if you eat a dry bean or pea. It has a floury texture and is not really nice. I actually do not know a single person who has ever said to me “I love the taste of pollen.” It is not really an acquired taste either – generally if you want to eat pollen try and hide it in something else that makes it taste better. Mix it into a smoothie or sprinkle it on your cereal (as an aside if you are trying to be healthy by eating pollen, and you are eating cereal your goals are misaligned as cereal and health are mutually opposed concepts).
Is Bee Pollen Sweet?
Bees sometimes mix a little bit of nectar into pollen to make it stick. This is not a hard and fast rule but I have noticed that some pollen has a slightly sweet taste, and others have no sweetness at all. Sometimes pollen can actually be bitter.
How To Extend The Life Of Bee Pollen?
Does bee pollen expire? Yes. Can we extend the life of bee pollen? Yes. As we mentioned above, the single biggest cause of pollen degrading with time is the oxidation of lipids/fats. If you remove oxygen, you reduce the rate at which this happens. This can be achieved in a number of different ways. You can place the pollen in gas-tight bags, suck out the air, replace the air with an inert gas such as Nitrogen and then seal the bags. This is a technology that has been perfected recently in the cannabis industry and these technologies can be used in pollen packaging as well.
Alternatively, if you place pollen in honey, and seal it in a jar, the honey protects the pollen quite well – this is a bit like what bees do when they seal pollen under a layer of wax.
Freezing pollen actually speeds up the oxidation of lipids, so, unless you have used one of the above two methods, freezing will not preserve the pollen.
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Does Bee Pollen Go Bad?
Does bee pollen expire – yes. With time it will expire as we have mentioned and it then gets a rancid taste and loses much of its nutritional value. Does bee pollen go bad – this is a big difference in terminology! Generally, in food processing, we mean something becomes poisonous when it goes bad. To use an example, you may find that Himalayan rock salt has a best before date or expiry date. This is just a nominal number that people put on a product to suggest that it will taste best before this date. If you eat salt that is past its expiry date, it will kill you no faster than salt before its expiry date. However, if you buy a beef steak, and it says “consume before” and you keep it for a month longer and eat it, there is a very good chance you will get ill. This would mean the steak has gone bad!!
In the sense of the above, bee pollen does not go bad. If you store it sensibly, it will, with time, just taste even worse than it normally does.
Does bee pollen expire – yes, depending on how you store it, it can last for months or years but eventually it gets a rancid taste. Does bee pollen go bad – no – if you store it sensibly, it cannot deteriorate in such a way that you can get sick and die from it (assuming you are not allergic to pollen). I hope this article has helped you understand more about pollen. If you do want to consume it, you do so for the benefit of your immune system, and most definitely not your palate! I eat pollen, and have done so for years and find it is a remarkable cure for hay fever – but after eating pollen for twenty-five years I still do not like that taste!
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.