Posts Tagged: rock purslane
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)
In the blink of an eye, they visit the rockpurslane (Calandrinia grandiflora).
Now you see them, now you don't.
They're a sweat bee, a little larger than most sweat bees, but a little smaller than a honey bee.
Halictus farinosus (family Halictidae) are often see pollinating blueberry fields, foraging among California golden poppies, and visiting members of the sunflower family, to name a few.
They're commonly called "sweat bees" because they're attracted to perspiration.
This one below is a female, as identified by native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Note the apical whitish abdominal bands that distinguish this genus from the related genus Lasioglossum (its bands are located basally, not apically).
Halictus has been around for millions of years, paleontologists tell us. In fact, known fossil records date back to the Eocene epoch, which took place 58 to 34 million years ago.
They definitely have persevered.
Sweat bee, Halictus farinosus, prepares to leave one flower for another. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Sweat bee, Halictus farinosus, foraging in rock purslane. (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)
Sometimes you get lucky.
While watching floral visitors foraging last week in our rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora), we noticed a tiny black bee, something we'd never seen before.
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology, identified it as a female leafcutting bee, Megachile gemula, "which has an all-black form."
It's a rather uncommon bee, but a distinctive bee, said Thorp, who is one of the instructors of The Bee Course, offered every year in the Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Ariz., for conservation biologists, pollination ecologists and other biologists who want to gain greater knowledge of the systematics and biology of bees. Participants come worldwide to learn about bees.
Megachile gemula is native to the United States. The females snip round holes in leaves and line their nests with the material. From egg to larva to pupa, a new generation emerges from the sealed nest.
Meanwhile, if you want to go on a walking tour with Thorp, mark your calendar for Friday, June 22. Thorp will lead a Tahoe National Forest Service tour of native plants and pollinators in the Loney Meadow, near Nevada City, Nevada County. The tour, free and open to the public, will take place from 10 a.m. to approximately 2 p.m.
The walk is provided as part of the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region’s 2012 Pollinator Special Emphasis Area "which has been developed to call attention to the importance of butterflies and native bees in providing important services for food production and ecosystem health," said Kathy Van Zuuk, Yuba River Ranger District botanist and forest level non-native invasive plant coordinator.
And what bees might tour participants encounter? Probably bumble bees, mining bees, digger bees, leafcutting bees, mason bees and cuckoo bees, Thorp said. Other floral-visitors are expected to include flies, butterflies, and beetles, he said. Van Zuuk and fellow botanist Karen Wiese will identify the native plants.
Those interested should meet at 10 a.m. at the Sierra Discovery Trail parking lot located off Highway 20 to carpool to Loney Meadow (where parking is limited). Participants of all ages should bring water, snacks, insect repellent, sunscreen and wear suitable footwear. (No dogs, please.)
Further information is available by contacting Van Zuuk at (530) 478-6243 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Female leafcutting bee, Megachile gemula, on rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Female leafcutting bee, Megachile gemula, exiting rock purslane. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bees in the pink?
If you plant rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora), a perennial succulent, be prepared for a posse of honey bees.
Our rock purslane is drawing so many bees that you'd never know there's a declining bee population and that there's a new sheriff (colony collapse disorder) in town.
They buzz, two or three at a time, toward a single blossom, and lug huge red pollen loads back to their hives.
We're glad to see there's so much interest in bees. A documentary making the rounds now is Queen of the Sun, an advocacy film probably playing in a theater near you. It's playing in Davis June 17 through June 23 at the Varsity Theater, downtown Davis. We saw it at a personal showing at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis a few weeks ago. The photography is stunning. Just as we prepared to watch it, one of the bee folks quipped: "This is a bee-rated movie."
For a good look at bee behavior, there's an online video titled "Bee Talker: The Secret World of Bees." Bee behaviorist Mark Winston, professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C., guides us "beyond the biology of the creatures to show us that our honey-producing neighbors have broader implications for humans and the plant.”
For another good look at bee behavior, step out into your yard. (That is, if you have bee plants in your yard.) "Won't the bees sting you?" some folks ask. No worries. These bees are foraging. They're not defending their colony.
Pollen-packing honey bee heads toward a rock purslane blossom already occupied by another worker. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee, packing a gigantic load of red pollen, heads for another rock purslane blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)