Pollen Trap Inventory at the Bee Center

Pollen Inventory 1With temperatures breaking into the 50s and 60s (finally!) we have seen buds and blooms surfacing across the region and we’ve certainly seen the foragers capitalizing on this! On Tuesday February 6th we set out a pollen trap for a day to take a closer look at what the bees are getting off the landscape. Now I still have not progressed on my pollen ID skills so most of my guesses at plant sources will be based on pollen color and from folks who know much more about the local plants. There are several guides available for ID-ing pollen by color (http://metrobeekeepers.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/PollenColorChart-Sheet1.pdf, http://www.wasatchbeekeepers.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/North-Bends-Pollen-Chart.pdf, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pollen_sources to name a few). While this is certainly helpful, it is no replacement for the palynology reports we have discussed in earlier posts (link to pollen report and honey report).

So here at the bee center we collected 29 g of pollen from returning foragers over the course of the day. As you can see, there are maybe two different colors present, one just slighly greener than the other. The pollen color charts and bloom observations point to maple as one but they are so similar in color it is hard to tell what else it might be.

Pollen Inventory 2

Pollen Inventory 3

Maples bloomed at this same time last year although the picture above was taken farther into the bloom on the first of March.

I’ve started thinking more about pollen, partly because I was elbow deep in gallon bags of pollen from one of the bee studies that trapped incoming pollen. They collected the pollen loads from the traps several times from the end of July until the first week in September. I was combining all these bags to have a stock of pollen for feeding bumble bees but I was amazed about the week to week variation in colors. Some days were almost all a burnt orange color, other days were a pale yellow, and some days were a total mix as you can see below.

Pollen Inventory 4 Pollen Inventory 5
Pollen Inventory 6

When looking at the bee center pollen from February 6th, and the pollen collected at the end of the year, you can see below how drastically different they are-not surprising but still visually striking.

Pollen Inventory 7

I hope to keep this up on a weekly/biweekly basis throughout the year to catch a glimpse of what the bees are getting throughout the seasons. We will hopefully be able to trap pollen from the Clayton Bayer research station as well to see how the pollen in RTP compares to a different area in the piedmont! It will be interesting to track this over the next few months as more plants start to bloom and the bees start building up again! Stay tuned!