Thursday, March 24, 2011


one of ours w/ pollen baskets
feb 27th
We spend so much of our time staring at the pollen baskets on the ladies as they come back to the hive, we can't help but make guesses as to what it is.  We love this game, and recently, we've loved taking it a bit more seriously.  We have Grant's humble Tasco microscope from 8th grade that we've been playing with, though we can't really make assertions as to what pollen we're collecting from the bees, just seeing the diversity in the composition of different pollens is its own revelation.

unknown pollen
gathered feb 20th
The two "unknown" pollens pictured here were pulled from our bees' baskets.  We believe the one to the right to be maple (gathered on Feb 20th), but are not sure.  We'll continue to pull pollen and analyze it as the season progresses, but have not yet found a reference guide (or maybe the time) to identify it using this method.  But it's fun anyway.

To help us build our vocabulary, we've started taking walks around the neighborhood to get a better feel for what's in bloom and to collect pollen samples from known sources.  I love this habit. One of the
unknown pollen
gathered march 20th
beekeeping side effects that we most eagerly anticipated was the
heightened awareness of plants' bloom cycles. When you know that the health and productivity of your hives depends on the success of surrounding flora, you're more invested in the flowers and trees and you pay more attention.  It is pleasant enough to see trees and flowers abloom simply for the sake of their beauty.  To also see them also as dinner for the girls and as the makings of a fine-flavored honey is even more pleasurable.

Below we have pictures of just a couple of the plants in bloom around us now, alongside their pollen, magnified 200x. 

cornelian cherry in bloom
march 14th
cornelian cherry pollen
march 14th

glory of the snow pollen
march 14th
glory of the snow in bloom
march 23rd

And tomorrow five new packages of bees arrive.  Ten thousand bees in a box, how fun! Check back for an illustrated explanation of what a package is and what you do with it.

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