Ever seen a honey bee packing red pollen?
Rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora) is one flower that yields red pollen.
It's a drought-tolerant perennial, a succulent. But the most striking part is its color: a neon pink that could stop traffic.
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. If you're a beekeeper, you've probably seen the red pollen in your frames and asked "Where did that red come from?"
Some of it may have come from a nearby rock purslane.
As the predominantly red-and-green holiday season draws to a close, and the year crawls to an end, it's time to "bee in the pink."
Yes, "in the pink."
Skip the red. Ignore the green. Think "in the pink."
"In the pink" means to be in top form, in peak condition, in the best of health, and that's a good resolution for the New Year. (Not to mention every day of every year.)
And, if you keep bees, let's hope your bees will be "in the pink," too. Want to learn to about beekeeping? Contact the UC Davis-based California Master Beekeeper Program.
Happy New Year!
It's Earth Day, an event we celebrate every April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protections on our troubled planet. This year's theme: "Restore Our Earth."
Sadly, however, most college campuses are temporarily or partially closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the face-to-face "teach-ins" are primarily Zoom sessions. Who would have thought? Who could have known?
What to do on Earth Day? Watching bees forage in a pollinator garden seems appropriate to recapture some of Earth Day's magic. Honey bees, responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat, continue to gather pollen, nectar, water and propolis every day (weather permitting), not just Earth Day.
Today's favorite fauna and flora: honey bees, Apis mellifera, foraging on rock purslane, Calandrinia grandiflora and packing red pollen back to their colonies. Just call them "temporary occupants" on Planet Earth. But always call them "special."
Read NASA's Nine Reasons We're Grateful to Live on Earth, posted April 21, 2020 for a better grasp of what we have and what we could lose. "The promise of a better life in the mysterious beyond can be seductive. But the fact is the more we learn about out there the more we realize how special it is here. The first astronauts to look from space back at Earth, a 'pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known,' as scientist Carl Sagan once wrote, saw a beautiful, delicate world that is perfectly suited to the bounty of life it supports."
Happy Earth Day!
When a house is a home...
Take the case of a syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly. It's a cold and windy day, and it's tucked in the folds of a rock purslane, Calandrinia grandiflora, in Vacaville, Calif.
It's sipping nectar, and rotating its colorful little body to gather more nectar and glean more sun.
The syrphid fly is often mistaken for a honey bee. Both are pollinators.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
Last year Joanna Klein posted an interactive feature in the New York Times, wondering how we can save the bees if we don't recognize them. She asked "Can You Pick the Bees Out of This Insect Lineup?" and posted an image of bees and wanna-be bees.
Find the flies.
And then access a PDF on flower flies on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website to learn more about them. Authored by lead author/entomologist Robert Bugg, it's titled "Flower Flies (Syrphidae) and Other Biological Control Agents for Aphids in Vegetable Crops."/span>
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!