The Pollen Basket

bee on cactus flower

A Bee and her Basket…

Do you know what is a pollen basket?  Hmmm…  Well, have you ever noticed that some of the bees you see flying have these orange or yellow clumps on their hind legs?

If you haven’t, they look like this.

A pollen basket that is red in color – bee pictures


That orange mass on her leg is her basket. It is pollen that she has gathered from flowers she has been visiting during her foraging about. Female bees provision their offspring with pollen (mixed with a little nectar), which means they have to visit numerous flowers (sometimes 100 plus per trip!) to gather enough pollen to feed each offspring that is produced. It would be incredibly inefficient for them to have to travel back to their nest after visiting each flower. So, to be more efficient female bees have a special apparatus for holding and transporting pollen. The pollen collecting apparatus in apid bees, which include honey bees and bumblebees, is commonly called a ‘pollen basket’ or corbicula. This region is located on the tibia of the hind legs and consists of hairs surrounding a concave region. After the bee visits a flower, she begins grooming herself and brushes pollen gathered on her body down toward her hind legs and packs the pollen into her pollen basket. A little nectar mixed with the pollen keeps it all together, and the hairs in the pollen basket hold it in place.

Other bees have a similar apparatus, only it is called a scopa. This basket can be located on the hind legs and/or the ventral side of their abdomen. Look at the abdomen of the bee in the photo below:

A pollen basket that is yellow in color - bee pictures

A pollen basket that is yellow in color – bee pictures

Check out the furry legs on this cactus bee:


Two pollen baskets that are yellow in color – bee pictures

Pollen basket vs. scopa

You may be wondering…’well, what is the difference between a pollen basket and the scopa?’ The main difference is that the pollen basket is a concave region surrounded by coarse hairs, whereas the scopa is just a region with a dense mass of specialized hairs (setae). But, both pollen baskets and scopa do the same job…transport pollen.

Now that spring is here, go out and check out the bees and look at their hind legs and their abdomen. If you see large pollen loads like these, or you see a bee that looks like she is covered with pollen, you know she has been working hard!

Guest post by entomologist Anna D. Howell of Anna’s Bee World


  1. Web design London says

    I was lucky and got this picture of a well filled pollen basket.And all of pictures are amazing.

  2. Anonymous says

    Great article, very informative. Really their are still number of bees undiscovered but I’m pretty sure of one thing they like to stick with flowers.

  3. Anonymous says

    Great photos! Very skilfully taken given the size of the subject matter!

  4. Anonymous says

    This is what i love reading blogs. Thanks for sharing..

  5. Anonymous says

    This is what i love about reading, thanks for sharing informative ideas. 

  6. tom coonen says

    this year the visiting honey bees have no pollen basket. everything i find says all honey bees have a corbicula. what’s the deal?

  7. Randy says

    I was wondering about this glad i know now

  8. Danesha says

    Tom, (and others interested), honey bees – and many other species of bees – do have corbiculae (singular corbicula). However, they only pack them when they are on a pollen foraging trip. Bees also eat (and store (nectar). When they are on a nectar trip, they are not collecting pollen, so you will not see “well packed” corbiculae. They gather pollen and nectar one different trips, depending on the needs of the colony, and the time of year (physiological timing of larvae development).

  9. Anonymous says

    Tq u so.much… happy to know ❤️

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