Posts Tagged: red pollen
Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as "red pollen."
Like people, pollen comes in many colors and all are beautiful. All.
The floral source determines the color of the pollen. Just as nectar is a carbohydrate source, pollen is a protein source. Honey bees need both to rear the brood.
One of my favorite bee images is a photo I took in my backyard of a honey bee sipping nectar from lavender. "What's that red stuff on her?" non-bee folks ask.
Pollen. Red pollen.
Bee folks question its origin. It's from the nearby rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). This honey bee, after gathering protein from the rock purslane, buzzed over to the lavender for some carbo loading. A little fuel for her flight back to the hive.
Bees gather red pollen from many floral sources, including not only rock purslane--a succulent--but horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), pear (Pyrus communis), and henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).
When I see red pollen, I think of the beauty of a delicate flower transferred over to a hard-working bee. I don't think of the color's negative connotations: red tape, red-eye flight, red herring, and caught red-handed.
"Red pollen" is "Christmas red" or "holiday red."
Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! And the best of the new year!
Honey bee with red pollen (from neighboring rock purslane) sipping nectar from lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee, packing red pollen, returning to a rock purslane blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's the Fourth of July--a time to celebrate our nation's Independence Day.
Hurrah for the red, white and blue!
That also covers red, white and blue pollen collected by our honey bees.
If you look closely, you'll see their "patriotic" colors.
"The importance of pollen to the health and vigor of the honey bee colony cannot be overstated," writes emeritus entomology professor Norman Gary of the University of California, Davis, in his best-selling book, "Honey Bee Hobbyist, The Care and Keeping of Bees."
"Honey satisfies the bees' carbohydrate requirements, while all of the other nutrients---minerals, proteins, vitamins and fatty substances--are derived from pollen. Nurse bees consume large amounts of pollen, converting it into nutritious secretions that are fed to developing larvae. During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers and consumes about 77 pounds of pollen."
Gary adds: "Pollen in the plant world is the equivalent of sperm in the animal world. Fertilization and growth of seeds depends upon the transfer of pollen from the male flower parts (anthers) to the receptive female parts (stigmas)."
Our honey bees are not native to America, but they've been here so long that many people think they are. European colonists brought them here to Jamestown Colony, Virginia, in 1622. Honey bees were established here before our forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
So, today, a time to celebrate the Fourth and a time to celebrate our honey bees, Apis mellifera.
Honey bee packing red pollen from a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of white pollen. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue pollen from a bird's eye blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Where do bees get red pollen?" we were asked. "We've seen bees packing blood-red pollen at the entrance to a hive."
Well, one flower that yields red pollen is rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). It's a drought-tolerant perennial, a succulent.
Interestingly enough, the blossom itself is neon pink or magenta, the kind that cyclists wear to be seen.
Rock purslane attracts its share of honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees and sweat bees. Other pollinators, including flies, land on it, too. It's a good plant to brighten your garden and to observe the wide variety of floral visitors.
Other flowers that yield red pollen include henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and horse chestnut (Aesulus hippocastanum).
Bees collect pollen as a protein source to rear their brood.
"The importance of pollen to the health and vigor of the honey bee colony cannot be overstated," writes Norman Gary, emeritus professor of entomology, in his book, Honey Bee Hobbyist, The Care and Keeping of Bees. "Honey satisfies the bees' carbohydrate requirement, while all of the other nutrients--minerals, proteins, vitamins and fatty substances--are derived from pollen."
"Nurse bees consume large amounts of pollen, converting it into nutritious secretions that are fed to developing larvae," Gary points out. "During an entire year, a typical bee colony gathers an consumes about 77 pounds of pollen."
And some of it is red!
Honey bee packing red pollen from rockpurslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee heading toward rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Unlike airplane pilots, honey bees don't file a flight plan.
They know where they're going because their sisters tell them with their waggle dances.
Pollen. Nectar. Propolis. All good.
Bees seem to really like the pollen on rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). It's red, but they can't see red; red appears to them as black.
Gardeners who grow rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora) in their yards are accustomed to seeing bees gathering red pollen.
Beekeepers? When they open their hives and see all the different colors of pollen--including yellow, orange, pink, purple, white and red--do they know where the red might have come from?
Interestingly, last year a beekeeper in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., reported seeing red--red honey. Finally, she realized her bees had been sipping maraschino cherry juice from vats at a nearby maraschino cherry company and bringing red "nectar" back to the hives.
It didn't taste like honey. That's because it wasn't.
The New York Times noted: "A fellow beekeeper sent samples of the red substance that the bees were producing to an apiculturalist who works for New York State, and that expert, acting as a kind of forensic foodie, found the samples riddled with Red Dye No. 40, the same dye used in the maraschino cherry juice."
Bee can't see red but a lot of other folks did.
Pollen-packing honey bee heading toward a rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Cleaning her tongue as she flies, a honey bee is on a mission: rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)