In the late 1700s, the expression "the bee's knees," was used to describe something very small and insignificant. The connotation changed somewhere around the 1920s to mean outstanding or the height of excellence.
The latter usage is the one we're going with, as the hind legs of a honeybee are truly remarkable. Dare we say the bee's knees are the bee's knees?
Have you ever noticed orange or yellow clumps sticking to a honeybee's hind legs? That's pollen!
While the worker bee is out foraging for nectar, her hairy body becomes covered in pollen. Occasionally she grooms herself, brushing the pollen back toward her hind legs. She then presses it and packs it into her pollen baskets, concave structures on the lower hind legs that are surrounded by long, stiff hairs. These hairs help hold the pollen pellet in place and keep it from falling out as she flies.
In a 2017 study researchers used elastic string to tug on the pollen pellets stored in honeybees' pollen baskets. According to Science magazine, the researchers found "the pellets, though seemingly precarious, were firmly attached: The force necessary to dislodge a pellet was about 20 times more than the force a bee typically experiences while flying."
She brings the pollen back to the hive, where it is stored and later eaten. It's a great source of nutrition for bees and for people, containing vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and protein.
To learn more about bee pollen, click here.
For easy ways to work these nuggets of nutrition into your diet, click here.