Category Archives: pollination

The surprises of organic gardening

We’ve had to be careful when tending our roses these days. Since we don’t use chemicals, our pest removal consists of hand picking (and squishing) the normal rose varmints. The bees are really getting deep into the roses which causes some surprises when pruning or removing pesky cucumber beetles.

Bee in Perl D'Or

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Bees love Blackfoot Daisy

What’s not to love about Blackfoot Daisy? It blooms all through the summer and fall, doesn’t need a lot of water, and actually smells like honey. It is no wonder the bees love it.

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The Elusive Pollen Frame

For weeks, I’ve been wanting to get either a photo or video of this one frame of multi-colored pollen that looks like stained-glass, and I was determined to make it happen this week.

Usually by the time I make it to the 3rd super where this frame is located, the girls are a bit worked up and the camera woman has to run to the house. The digital camera I have is old school, and you have to look through the view finder which is difficult while wearing a veil. I decided to try and get some video using my iPhone, but it is also difficult to operate while wearing gloves, but I managed to get some footage that isn’t terrible but not as focused as I wanted. Hopefully it conveys the variety of pollen that has been stored, and one of these days I’ll actually get a decent photo.

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Bumblebee!

This bee is huge. Right now, it is loving our fall aster which is a native Austin plant. It is so fuzzy I want to pet it, but I doubt it would appreciate the gesture.

Bumblebee on Fall Aster

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Bees love our Antique Roses

We have a large variety of antique roses on our property and unlike hybrid roses you buy at the florist, these roses haven’t been bred to death to look a certain way with no hint of pollen or scent.

We followed this bee first trying to force its way into an unopened bud of Rosette Delizy.
Bee on Rosette Delizy

After an unsuccessful attempt on the Rosette Delizy, she decided that the Perle D’Or was more accessible.
Bee on Perle D'Or

Bee on Perle D'Or

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October 9th Hive Check

My in-laws are visiting from Mumbai, and I was happy to have a beautiful October day to take them out to the hive. Unfortunately, the girls were a bit defensive this morning so they had to move to a safe distance to watch and avoid getting buzzed. Usually, I can get a couple supers deep before the girls get annoyed, but today they started chasing away the visitors from the beginning.

Even though Austin is in bloom, I think we could use another round of rain to keep the nectar flow going. Not much done with the empty honey super I put back on the hive after last week’s harvest, but all the other supers have plenty of activity.

I’ve been noticing a lot more drone cells this week and last. I even saw a drone starting to emerge, but was unable to get a good picture. They will probably enjoy another month of easy living, but then the hive will kick all the drones out in November when the weather cools down. Enjoy it while you can boys.

I haven’t seen Large Marge in forever, but her egg laying pattern is still awesome and the girls are producing some beautiful frames of brood. They are also stocking away pollen, and I’m really going to try and get a picture next week of a frame filled with multi-colored pollen.

Since I couldn’t get a lot of photos of the hive this week, here are some pictures of bees enjoying the fall blooms here in Austin. These are the girls on some Frostweed.

Bees on Frostweed

Bee on Frostweed

Kidney Wood is also in bloom and is very attractive to honey bees.

Bee on Kidney Wood

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Pollen Analysis – Breakdown

I meant to post this earlier, but here is the official breakdown of pollen in the honey sample I sent in.

       
Pollen Taxa Count %
       
ASTERACEAE (sunflower-type) 1 0.5%
BORAGINACEAE (borage) 1 0.5%
FABACEAE (legumes) 1 0.5%
LAMIACEAE (mint) 2 0.9%
Lagerstroemia (crepe-myrtle) 162 75.3%
Ligustrum (privet) 17 7.9%
LILIACEAE (lily family) 7 3.3%
Melilotus (clover) 3 1.4%
Prosopis (mesquite) 20 9.3%
   
Unknown pollen 1 0.5%
     
Totals 215 100%  
       
 
   
       

 

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Pollen Analysis Results

I received my pollen analysis from Dr. Bryant this morning, and I was a bit shocked. It turns out the girls love the crepe-myrtles. Austin had great rains starting last fall into early summer, and I will say the crepe-myrtles had amazing blooms this year. I just never saw any bees on them. We have several in our yard and while I saw the occasional bee buzzing around the blooms, I just assumed they were not a major source of pollen or nectar.

Here is some of the technical information from the report:

Category I: contain less than 20,000 grains/10 g.  Often, honey in this category represents samples that have been pressure-filtered, honey from floral sources that produce little pollen, honeys that were partly produced by sugar-feeding bees, or honey that has been adulterated by adding high-fructose syrup.  Usually, honeydew honey samples also fall into this first category.  Pollen concentration counts in Category II: contain between 20,000-100,000 grains/10 g and indicates the honey has come from normal floral sources.  Category III: pollen concentration values range from 100,000-500,000 grains/10 g and represent floral sources that are high pollen producers or indicate that some of the comb storage cells containing pure pollen may have been mixed with the extracted honey.  Category IV: includes pollen concentrations between 500,000-1,000,000 grains/10 g.  That category along with honey in Category V: (containing pollen concentrations of more than 1,000,000 grains/10 g) indicate honey that is produced from a few different floral sources that are extremely rich in pollen (i.e., Myosotis sylvatica, Cynoglossum officinale).

Here is the official summary:

Your honey is an excellent example of a “Unifloral Honey” because it contains a dominant pollen type in the amount of 81%.  For a unifloral honey, the International Bee Commission states you must have at least one pollen type in a percentage greater than 45%.  The pollen concentration value of 35,650 pollen grains per 10 grams of honey is low, but it is within Category 2, which is in the range dominated by many Unifloral Honey samples. Because crepe-myrtle pollen is fairly large, much of it would normally be removed during a bee’s flight back to the hive.  This phenomenon results in a low pollen concentration value in honey produced from the nectar of certain taxa, such as crepe-myrtle.

In addition to this honey being an excellent example of a Unifloral crepe-myrtle (Lagerstroemia sp.) honey, it also contains a small amount of nectar from another two sources, mesquite (Prosopis sp.), and privet (Ligustrum sp.).  There are also a few other pollen types represented in this sample, which might reflect very minor foraging activity of your bees on other flowers such as those of clover (Melilotus sp.), some species of mint (LAMIACEAE the genus of which I cannot be certain since many mint types produce very similar pollen), and some species of plant in the lily family (Fig. 1).  The lily pollen is very similar to the pollen of yucca (Yucca sp.) or crow poison (Nothoscordum sp.), but there are other pollen types that are nearly identical and thus without further work I could not be certain of the precise species that is represented.  Overall, this is and excellent example of a good, unifloral crepe-myrtle honey.

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Pollen Analysis

For those that are interested in getting a pollen analysis done on your honey, here is the information you need. I just sent off a sample today, and I’ll post the results when I get them.

Pollen extraction and analysis of pollen from honey $50/sample
This includes extraction of pollen from honey, pollen concentration values, a CD of photographs of key pollen types found in the sample, and a complete analysis of the recovered pollen data including probable geographical region where the honey was produced and a list of the primary nectar sources. We generally examine 200-400 pollen grains per sample. When appropriate, we will provide verification documents for export, and interpretations based on pollen coefficient values for the primary taxa present. We generally use 10 grams of honey from each sample but prefer to have additional honey available should we need to reprocess a sample. Therefore, we suggest sending approximately 30-50 grams of honey per sample.

Send sample to:

Vaughn M. Bryant, Professor of Anthropology
Director, Palynology Laboratory
Department of Anthropology
Texas A&M University (TAMU 4352)
College Station, TX  77843-4352

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Lose Weight Fast!

I think I may be on to the next weight loss fad. Lose inches fast! Just 30 minutes a week in a full bee suit in the middle of a Texas summer, and you too can get the body you have always dreamed about.

Even checking the hive by 10:00am is still bloody hot. The girls were still more aggressive than normal, but nothing too concerning. I did take several stings on the hands but the gloves took the blunt of the damage. They seemed more angry at the frame grip than at me at times.

Bees on frame grip

After Saturday’s inspection, I decided to put the feeder back on for at least a week. With all the rain, I think there is enough blooming to maintain the hive, but not enough to build out more comb. I really believe if they could just build out the basically empty 3rd super, they would feel less crowded, and the number of queen cells I find each week would diminish. So we will see if a week of feeding will encourage more comb. I may cry if they just store it away in the 4th and 5th supers.

I went back Sunday early afternoon, and was dismayed to find a bunch of ants on the inner cover cleaning up the squished bees from Saturday’s inspection. I killed as many as I could before putting the feeder back on. Ants were the last thing I wanted to see before putting a feeder full of sugar syrup on top of the hive. Luckily, I got the hive stand with built in “moats” that I filled with water. I will probably need to go mid-week to fill them up with either more water or mineral oil. I’ve also heard that cinnamon is a good natural ant deterrent which I may try.

Sunflowers are going strong right now, and I’m not sure how much nectar they produce, but they are certainly full of pollen.

Bee on Sunflower

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