Inside: Honey bees never pollinate wheat because wheat is in the grass family. Plants in the grass family rely on wind pollination alone and never depend on bees.
The grass family comprises flowering plants pollinated by the wind. Since the grasses do not need to attract animal pollinators, the plants do not expend energy to produce colorful petals, sweet nectar, or attractive odors. You will seldom see bees, butterflies, moths, or any other pollinator paying attention to a wheat field.
However, the grass family feeds a large portion of the human population. According to the Food and Agriculture Association (FAO), the big three grass crops—maize (corn), wheat, and rice—account for over 40% of all human calories consumed. Other grains from the grass family include barley, sorghum, millet, oats, rye, triticale, teff, spelt, and kamut.
Grasses produce lots of pollen
Like most wind-pollinated plants, grasses produce large quantities of pollen. Honey bees often seek out grass pollen and collect it readily, which is no problem unless the plants contain systemic insecticides. The pesticides travel throughout the plants with some of them lodging in the pollen grains. Honey bees end up tainting their food stores when these chemical pesticides are brought into the hive.
If you think you’ve seen your honey bees collect grass pollen, you are probably correct. Although the grasses produce no nectar, the plentiful pollen may ripen at a time when honey bees need a good alternative source of pollen. However, remember that the bees are not pollinating the grasses, they are just collecting the pollen.
Bees use less nutritious pollen when necessary
Although grass pollen is not very nutritious for bees, it can help them through times of shortage if it isn’t contaminated with chemicals. Honey bees are very resourceful and often find ways to feed themselves and their sisters in times of shortage.
Honey Bee Suite