Category Archives: pollination

Austin in Bloom

While the temps are finally hitting the high 90’s, we’ve received well timed rain showers that have kept Austin mostly green and in bloom.

Tending to our plot at Sunshine Community Gardens, we noticed bees everywhere. We let our mint go to flower, and the bees really seem to favor it.

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We also let our fennel flower in the hopes of attracting butterflies that use it as a larval food source. No signs of any butterflies yet, but the bees are working it.

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The purple coneflowers this year have really been spectacular.

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One of our neighbor plots have huge plants of oregano that flowered.

Bee on Oregano

In August, I’m sure Austin will be brown and dry, but with our rather chilly spring this year, I’m glad to see so much in bloom which will hopefully allow bees everywhere to get their hives strong.

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After my wife watched me go from an obscure beekeeping blog to an international success (seriously, I had three views from Indonesia this week), she obviously wanted in on this blogging action.

She has now started her own blog titled Game of Thorns where she chronicles her love of gardening with a special emphasis on antique roses. Her latest post made it easy to use in this shameless plug as it relates to native bees using our roses for their nesting materials.

Enjoy!

Game of Thorns

After the rains, the roses in the garden are blooming in a rainbow of colors.
Souvenir de la Malmaison is blushing pink.

Valentine unfurled its velvety red petals.

Perle D’or is living up to its fancy French name.

I’m not the only one who has noticed the roses. For the past week I have seen these shiny, dark blue-green insects hovering frantically over the rose bushes. Here is the clearest picture of one I could get.

Leaf Cutting Bee

Now I would say that I have an above-average experience with insects, but I couldn’t nail down a positive ID on this one. That was when I noted some peculiar things about the mystery bug. First, it kept flying under our outdoor teakwood table. Karl, being adventurous, crawled underneath and saw these man-made holes on the underside of the table that the creatures found delightful to hide away in.

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I then noticed that…

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Florida Bees

I spent the past few days visiting my folks in Jupiter, FL which is just north of West Palm Beach. One of their neighbors are hosting some hives on their land for a Florida beekeeping during the “winter” months. This particular beekeeper mainly provides pollination services for the various citrus groves in the area as well as farms and orchards on both the coasts.

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Right now, a small ground cover weed is in full bloom in the area which the bees are hitting hard. Looking at the blooms individually, they are very small and not an obvious source of pollen or nectar, but when you have 1 or 2 acres of the stuff, it is all of a sudden an excellent food source.

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I stalked this one bee for a long time before I finally got a good shot to show all the pollen these tiny flowers are producing. This girl was loaded down with the stuff and wasn’t even taking the time to move all the pollen to her pollen sacs. She was literally covered head to toe with this white pollen.

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Bees will take advantage of whatever is available and goes to show that what most people consider weeds are vital for the local pollinators during the lean months before the major spring and summer blooms.

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Fall Blooms

Knives’ hive has really been packing it away for winter. She now has two 8-frame supers full of the stuff and has started working on the third.

I had a really hard time getting the top most super off during this morning’s inspection. Not only does it weigh 50+ pounds, but the girls had also built a lot of comb filled with honey in between the two honey supers.

After a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center last weekend, I thought I would collect as many photos as I could of bees collecting nectar and pollen.

Antique roses are a great source of pollen. Here is a Perle D’Or Rose:

This is a Louis Phillipe antique rose with a hoverfly:

Rock Rose isn’t a true rose, but it is in full bloom right now.

Prostrate Rosemary grows like a weed in Austin, and has very small blue blooms:

Fall Aster, crazily enough, blooms in the fall and the bees love it:

Kidney Wood is a native tree and the blooms actually smell like honey. I can see why the bees love it.

Even the hoverflies are getting in on the action.

The great thing about Central Texas is the prolific number of trees and flowers that bloom in the fall. Even after a terrible summer of drought, the number of fall blooms available gives the bees a chance to catch up and get ready for the winter.

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Texas Barometer Bush FTW!

Leucophyllum frutescens, most commonly known as the Texas Barometer Bush, is said to bloom before a rainfall. This bush in my front yard burst into bloom in the middle of one of the worst droughts Texas has ever seen about a week before the rains finally came to Central Texas.

The bees in my neighborhood definitely appreciated the pollen and nectar and were all over this plant.

Bee on Texas Barometer Bush

Bee in Texas Barometer Bush

Texas is finally getting some much needed rain, and we are expected to get up to 3 inches through Tuesday. Hopefully this is the start of better weather for Austin and perhaps a fall nectar flow is now not a distant dream.

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What the heck is blooming?

Knives’ hive continues to amaze me. During today’s inspection, I noticed a lot of frames with new pollen stores plus there were a lot of foragers flying back in with full pollen sacs.

I really have no idea what could be blooming. I guess this is one of the benefits of having hives in an urban environment where people still keep their gardens alive even when the outlying areas are parched dry and on fire.

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Latest Honey Pollen Analysis

I got the results back from my latest pollen analysis, and it was much different from the first batch of honey I sent last year.

The honey you submitted contains a large variety of pollen types many of which occur in very small amounts, suggesting that those floral sources were important but minor nectar contributors to the honey.  The pollen concentration value of 99,250 pollen grains/10 grams of honey is high but is within the honey placed in Category II, which is the category generally attributed to most unifloral and mixed floral honey produced throughout the world. 

The relative pollen count of this sample is dominated by various members of the rose family (ROSACEAE), and elm (Ulmus).  Other significant nectar sources include blackberries (Rubus), and members of the buttercup family (RANUNCULACEAE) that include a number of different genera including Clematis.  Some of the other minor pollen types, and by inference some of the nectar sources, include Texas persimmon, honeysuckle, crepe-myrtle, wild plum, and sunflowers.  Overall, your honey is classified as a Multifloral Wildflower Honey.

Pollen Taxa

%

ASTERACEAE (ragweed-type)  

0.40%

ASTERACEAE (sunflower-type)

1.30%

BRASSICACEAE (mustard family)

0.40%

Clematis (clematis)

9.40%

Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon)

1.70%

Fraxinus (ash)

3.00%

Lagerstroemia (crepe-myrtle)

4.30%

LILIACEAE (lily family)

0.40%

Liquidambar (sweetgum)

1.30%

Lonicera (honeysuckle)

0.40%

Melilotus (clover)

0.40%

Prunus (plum, peach, cherry)

0.90%

Quercus (oak)

1.30%

RANUNCULACEAE (buttercups)

8.90%

ROSACEAE (rose family)

19.10%

Rubus (blackberry, dewberry)

8.90%

Salix (willow)

7.20%

Sambucus (elderberry)

2.10%

Ulmus (elm)

28.10%

Vitis (grape)

0.40%

Unknown pollen

0.40%

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Bees on Cross-Vine

This is the first year I’ve really noticed bees on our cross-vine.

Bees on Crossvine

We planted it because hummingbirds are really supposed to like it, but I don’t think I have really ever seen any sort of bird/insect interested in this plant until today. I’m glad something is taking advantage of it.

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Winter Blooms

The Austin winter so far has consisted of several days of freezing weather followed by several days of warm sunny days. One of the few plants in bloom right now is rosemary which grows great in Austin and tons of people have it planted in their yards. I really enjoy watching bees on rosemary blooms because the blooms are so small, and they really have to wiggle their little heads into the flowers to get the good stuff.

Bee on Rosemary

I also discovered this patch of various varieties of broccoli and cabbages gone to seed and the bees were all over it.

Broccoli and Cabbages

Here is a bee navigating its way through all the stems.

Bee in Broccoli

It is nice to know that even in late January there are still nectar and pollen sources to be had in the area. This bee is well on her way of filling up her pollen sacs.

Bee on Broccoli Flower

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Human Pollination

There has been a lot of discussion on what would happen to our food supply if the pollinator population (both native bees and imported honey bees) were to decline dramatically or disappear altogether. The overall consensus is that it is not a good outcome for us humans.

What I didn’t realize is that some areas of the world are already dealing with a lack of adequate pollinators for their crops. In the Maoxian county of Sichuan, China, workers now have to pollinate pear and apple trees by hand because the pollinator population has, for all intents and purposes, been destroyed.

You can read the entire Guardian article here, but is a sobering look of what could happen if fundamental changes to America’s and the world’s agricultural practices are not made in the near future.

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