How about "getting the red in?"
Have you ever seen a honey bee packing white, pink, blue, lavender, yellow, orange or red pollen? Have you ever seen the colorful diversity of pollen grains gracing their hives? Stunning.
Take red. It's a warning color in nature--think lady beetles, aka ladybugs. Predators know they don't taste good so they learn to leave them alone.
A chunk of red pollen on a honey bee, however, looks like a sun-ripened strawberry.
Lately we've been seeing honey bees with red pollen foraging on our Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas. Problem is, lavender yields a pale whitish pollen, not red. Last summer, the red came from the adjacent rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). It's not blooming now, however, so, they're drawing that brilliant red pollen elsewhere. And stopping by the Spanish lavender for nectar, their flight fuel.
Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, says "I have not observed honey bees collecting pollen from lavender, but have seen them with pollen loads from other flowers stopping for a sip of nectar...especially honey bees that have been foraging on plants that do not produce nectar like California poppies, and lupines."
"English lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and most other members of the mint family have pale pollen rarely collected by honey bees, but these garden herbs are all great nectar resources," he says. "It is common to see honey bees on these plants with the wrong color pollen as they forage the herbs for nectar."
We're waiting for the cilantro to bloom. Then the bees will "be in the pink," so to speak. Pink pollen.
Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about honey bees, three UC Davis-affiliated events await you.
Saturday, May 6: The inaugural California Honey Festival, an event coordinated by the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, will be held within a four-block area in downtown Woodland. Free and open to the public, it will include presentations, music, mead speakeasies, honey-tasting, vendors, bee friendly gardening, and a kids' zone.
Sunday, May 7: The third annual UC Davis Bee Symposium, sponsored by the Honey and Pollination Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will take place in the UC Davis Conference Center. Keynote speaker is Steve Sheppard, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash. Registration is underway.
Tuesday through Friday, Sept. 5-8: The Western Apicultural Society, founded at UC Davis, will return to UC Davis for its 40th annual meeting. It was co-founded by Norm Gary (it was his brainchild), Eric Mussen and Becky Westerdahl at what is now the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. Mussen, now Extension apiculturist emeritus, is serving his sixth term as president since 1984. WAS serves the educational needs of beekeepers from 13 states, plus parts of Canada.
If you're around the UC Davis campus on Friday, Feb. 5, be sure to wear red.
Faculty, staff and students--and everyone else interested--will take over Hutchison Field, UC Davis campus, on Friday for the third annual UC Davis Wears Red Day.
It's meant to promote heart health, but we like to promote bee health, too. (After all, this is a blog about bugs.) That's why we're including a pollen-packing honey bee heading toward lavender. The pollen is red--but not from the lavender. It's from the nearby rock purslane.
Check out what UC Davis Dateline editor Dave Jones wrote about Red Day.
The event begins at 10 a.m. with CPR training and a walk-through the MEGA heart exhibit. That's until 2 p.m. Then the Battle Heart Disease Fair (including Zumba) will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At high noon, everyone will gather to form a huge heart. "We've done this twice before, both times in the rain. Friday's forecast is precipitation-free!" Jones said. "So put on your UC Davis Wears Red Day T-shirt and join in! (Shirts are available at all UC Davis Stores; $2 from every purchase goes to the UC Davis Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program.)
While folks are forming the heart, the California Aggie Marching Band-uh will make it fun! It's also a great time to take selfies. Be still, my heart.
Want to attend? Let UC Davis know on its Facebook event page.
You can also tweet about it using the hashtag: #UCDavisWearsRed.
And you can Follow Dateline UC Davis on Twitter.
As an aside, I'm not sure if any red pollen-packing honey bees will be there, but take heart, they'll be somewhere!
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!
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.
"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!