Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Many Colors of Pollen

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It is hard to describe the enjoyment that Robb and I are experiencing, observing our bee hives. The bees are incredibly industrious, and there's so much to notice.

Plus, they're preposterously cute. Bees are fuzzy and adorable, and have charming little faces.




What we've been noticing is the color of the pollen, brought into the hive. Not every bee brings back pollen. Presumably some are returning with a load of nectar. But you can't see the nectar.

The bees have velcro-like hair structures on their hind-most legs. These are used to collect pollen from flowering plants. The bees come back so laden with pollen that they seem to waddle into the hive. Once inside, they'll be disencumbered of their load, and will fly out for another foraging trip. Bees apparently can fly up to five miles, in search of pollen and nectar. Our neighborhood is so flowery, that we imagine the bees don't have to make terribly long trips. Oddly, they don't tend to forage much in our little back yard. Allergic friends, take note: our house isn't seething with angry, stinging insects. It's still safe to visit.




From what we've read, young bees will serve as hive guards, before they are old enough to forage. We do see the occasional bee, checking out returning foragers. They seem to be sniffing the returning worker, but we could be misinterpreting this activity.




Most of the pollen coming into the hive is bright yellow, but we also see bees carrying creamy white pollen.




Robb and I most enjoy seeing the rare bee, carrying bright red pollen. Isn't that insane-looking? I found a chart on Wikipedia, that shows some of the colors of commonly collected pollen, sorted by season. Goodness knows what this red pollen is coming from!




Oddly enough, Robb and I were eating lunch outside, when a large and very noisy swarm of honeybees flew over the roof of our house. I completely failed to see where they were heading, they were flying so quickly. But what are the chances that Robb and I would happen to be sitting outside at the exact moment that a swarm flew past? Neither of us had ever seen a swarm of bees, prior to this spring. It's amazing the things you can notice, if you keep your eyes open.

5 comments:

Gail (www.yardflower.com) said...

Lisa,
Your wonderful pictures of the bees make me want to upgrade my camera. Very nice.

NellJean said...

Interesting bee story.

Some of my corn poppies have blue-green pollen.

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Great pictures, you captured the color differences beautifully!

TaylorM said...

I know, they're totally cute, right?

camissonia said...

Lisa, thanks so much for faving my blog on Blotanical! You've got some great photos of the bees and I look forward to following your posts on these amazing insects. I also checked out some of your previous posts and really enjoyed all of your native plant & bird pix.

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