Palynology anyone?

Last week’s pollen run (and a nudge from a good beekeeping friend) inspired me to visit my school’s science lab with a pollen sample from the landing board of one of my hives. I am blessed to work with a science teacher who humors me enough to share his equipment on occasion. After a few minutes of fussing around trying to remember my high school microscope skills, I managed to get a decent enough view of my pollen. I trolled Google images with my best guesses –filbert and dandelion– and was rewarded with a pretty satisfying match. The image I have borrowed here is most likely not our native filbert, but the closely-related European filbert.  Close enough for me to conclude that my bees were in the filberts last week.

The whole episode left me excited about creating a floral calendar and/or map for our area. Because there are so many micro-climates in Lane County–from the Willamette Valley, to the foothills east and west, to the Coast–floral sources and their timing vary greatly. Knowing what’s blooming, building up a record over several years, and associating those bloom times with developments in the hive can help us manage honey production and anticipate major events like swarming. For example, Judy Scher, an experienced Eugene beekeeper who’s been keeping records for a few years, has been able to correlate her neighborhood’s forsythia bloom with drone rearing in her colonies.  Drone rearing precedes queen rearing and swarming, so Judy can prepare her swarm management strategy accordingly.

Are there any adventurous souls from elsewhere in the county that might be willing to collaborate in this project? I will be awaiting your reply–and dreaming of microscopes!


4 responses to “Palynology anyone?

  1. My bees on Swamp Creek were seen entering the hive with pollen bags full. I looked around but I couldn’t figure out where they were collecting pollen. I don’t have filberts, most things are brown except the evergreens, clover, some kale and broccoli leaves, and of course blackberry brambles.

  2. Brenda, you very likely have native filbert growing along Swamp Creek and on the hills behind your place. It’s not a really showy shrub, but right now the ones in Blachly are covered in dangling, pollen-packed catkins. Filberts, also known as hazelnuts, are wind pollinated, so they don’t make a significant amount of nectar; bees are relying on their stores or your fondant for carbohydrates. Filbert pollen does offer an important source of protein at a time when bees are expanding their brood nest. Pollen coming in is usually a sign that brood-rearing is going on, so good for you–baby bees are in the works!

  3. Kelly
    I guess you may already know, but Ken O’grain has an interest in Palynology??. I believe he has a bit of a library of local pollen. You might try discussing it with him.
    I find it interesting myself, but have a full plate for now. I am put off by the cost of a microscope also. I wonder if there is a place to buy them used? Maybe we could discuss the club buying a used one for club use? I wonder how many club members would use it.? Interesting.

  4. Max, I am also stumbling on the price tag. My dream microscope this week is an AmScope 40x-2000x veterinary model with a USB camera and a movable stage. Unfortunately, it costs about $200 on Amazon. A techie friend suggested a USB microscope, which goes straight from sample to digital image without the traditional lenses I associate with a microscope. Amazon sells an AGPtec 800x digital USB microscope for under $40. Since most of the pollen images I’ve seen online are using a magnification of 250x, I’m wondering if that might be adequate. It sure would make pollen imaging a lot more accessible for people. I’m not sure about used microscopes; I’ve only tried looking on Craigslist so far (not too encouraging there.) Another option might be to have a central imaging location where people could send their dated pollen samples via snail mail.

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