Thursday, June 23, 2011

painting: bee on verbascum

bee on verbascum, acrylic on plywood, 8.5 x 7"
Today's bee is gathering pollen on verbascum, aka mullein. (Specifically, verbascum bombyciferum 'Arctic Summer', which I got at the awesome Annie's Annuals.) The fact that bees might EITHER be collecting nectar OR pollen from a given flower is something I learned about over on the excellent blog 'Old Drone': bees, pollination and more', written by a retired commercial beekeeper. The difference in the behavior of bees engaged in each activity became quite obvious once I knew of it.
"To collect nectar, or to collect pollen is a choice. Worker bees that are collecting nectar take longer in each flower, probing the flower’s nectaries with their tongues for sweet droplets which they carry in their crops back to the hives. Bee that are gathering nectar will accomplish some pollination by accident.

But other bees make the choice to deliberately gather pollen, likely because there is quite a bit of open brood in the hive that requires the pollen for protein for its development....These bees do not probe with their tongues; rather they “doggy paddle” through the stamens to get as much pollen as possible to adhere to their fuzzy bodies. Then they comb this pollen into their pollen baskets and carry it home. Bees that are deliberately gathering pollen are as much as ten times more efficient pollinators than those who are gathering nectar."
Bees who have been actively pollinating have clearly visible bulges on the hind legs-- which is pollen stored in their pollen sacs.

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