Green pollen?

Towards the end of the season you will probably have observed bright green pollen loads coming in – like this. Please excuse poor photo.

Green pollen loads

If you ask your local beekeeper, he or she is likely to tell you that it is meadowsweet. However, if you doggedly search the drifts of meadowsweet in your locale for a bee with full pollen baskets, you will see that the pollen they are carrying is actually a creamy yellow. See photo below:

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmeria) pollen loads

A riddle then.

We all know that bees are very specialised in their foraging behaviour during the height of the season – ie they are recruited via excited waggle dancers to ‘go fetch’ a particular pollen or nectar and will go where they are directed and concentrate on that one crop. This strategy allows them to make the most of a resource when, where and if there is a proliferation – farmers permitting.

At the shoulders of the season though, when the main flows are over and forage is becoming thin on the ground – does that strategy continue to be sensible? Or is it wiser for bees to fuzzy the focus and become more generlist/opportunistic in their foraging behaviour.

We know that bees visit both crocuses and snowdrops in the spring when both are in bloom together but the pollen loads of both those flowers are brownish orange so we can’t really tell from the pollen loads just where those bees have been. Unless of course we have a microscope and a fixation.

To come back to the point though – what  is the source of the green pollen  loads? Is it a single source or could it be a mixture of two different coloured pollens from two different species? For example meadowsweet (yellow) and rosebay willowherb (blue).

Blue rosebay willowherb (Chamaenerion angustifolium) pollen loads

Personally, I think it is a mixture of the yellow meadowsweet pollen and the blue rosebay willowherb pollen.

What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Green pollen?”

  1. The bees use some nectar to pack the pollen, this can lead to variation on the colour. There is a amazing book on the subject by Dorothy Hodges called The pollen loads of the honey bee.

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