Posts Tagged: plum
Ever watched an in-flight honey bee packing her load of pollen?
A foraging bee carries her ball-like load of pollen on her hind legs and continually moistens it with a little nectar. The size and shape changes as she works. Sometimes you'll see BB-sized loads and at other times the pellets seem as large as beach balls. The color varies, depending on the color of the pollen she collects.
In the UC Agricultural and Natural Resources (UC ANR) publication, Beekeeping in California, (now out of print, but expected to be revised soon) the authors define pollen as "Male sex cells produced in anthers of flowers. Powderlike and composed of many grains, they are gathered and used by honey bees for food as a source of protein. A good mix of many different pollens is essential for adequate nutrition."
Humans use pollen as a supplement or as a way to desensitize the effects of hay fever. If you pick up a jar of pollen granules at your local health food store, the label is likely to read "All naturally occurring: vitamins, minerals, amino acids, carotenoids, bioflavonoids, phytosterols, fatty acids, and enzymes" and the like. Then there's the caution: "Bee pollen may cause allergic reactions in some sensitive people."
And the bees? The brood likes it just fine, except when it's toxic (California buckeye pollen is toxic to the larvae and can result in malformed, nonfunctional adults). Pollen contaminated with pesticides can also be life-threatening. Pesticides used on such crops as alfalfa, oranges, cotton, corn and beans can be hazardous to bees.
Meanwhile, a pollen-packing honey bee in flight is a sight to bee-hold.
Pollen-packing honey bee heading toward plum blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee adjusts her load. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee loaded with pollen heading home. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you haven't made it over to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, yet this year, you should.
The trees that form "Orchard Alley" are blooming. You'll see almonds and plums flowering, and soon, apples.
Really spectacular are the delicate plum blossoms. Look closely and you'll see the honey bees with heavy pollen loads weaving in and out of the branches.
The haven is a half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. The Sacramento Bee just named it one of the Top 10 gardens to visit in Sacramento/Yolo County.
Wrote garden editor Debbie Arrington: "Local gardeners don't have to go far to find inspiration. Our region is dotted with memorable public gardens that offer beauty and food for thought along with relaxation. A stroll through any of these destinations may turn up a new favorite shrub or eye-catching flower. In these gardens, you can see firsthand how thousands of plants have adapted to our climate and often low-water conditions. Best of all: Admission is free."
No. 1 on the list? The UC Davis Arboretum. In fact, of the 10 gardens listed, two are located at UC Davis!
Honey bee foraging on plum blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Pollen-packing honey bee heading home. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)