Last Friday (3/18/2016) I visited 3 hives. While there I took a walk to see if I could find bees working the Purple dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum). I had observed bees entering hives with RED pollen and thought it was from the Nettle. It didn’t take long to find several examples. Note the RED pollen sacks on the bees working this plant. There can be some confusion distinguishing between Purple deadnettle and henbit, but I think I have this identified correctly. If you think I misidentified this plant, LET ME KNOW.
Bees were also working what I call whitetop (a.k.a. Hoary Cress or Lepidium draba). The pollen that they gather from whitetop is a beige color. It has a strange consistency for pollen and appears almost shiny when on the pollen sacks. I have described it to others as looking like bees are bringing in boogars. None of the pictures of bees working whitetop came out. I will work on that in the future.
These plants though different in appearance have some things in common. Both like to grow in agricultural fields very early in the Spring. They also are both species introduced to North America by humans which gives them something in common with Apis mellifera as well. Purple Dead-nettle is originally from Europe and Asia, while whitetop is native to western Asia and eastern Europe.
Both are considered invasive species by humans because we like to label things. They’re just doing what species have always done, trying to expand their range through any means available. When we seed a species to new range we call it being invasive like it’s NOT OUR fault. The drive to pass genetic material and push into new ecosystems is perfectly natural. We have accelerated this by moving things around the WORLD, but this has been happening for millions of years. Some species depend on animals to move them around and have evolved to take advantage of more mobile forms of life. Think of things the cocklebur (Xanthium strumarioum) or any other plant with a burr type seed. They’re made to move around!
Over the next several weeks the flower smorgasbord is going to be opening up. Many more species will begin to bloom. Make sure you are looking for what is blooming where you live. This is very important to success in your beekeeping venture. Understanding phenology tells you “where you’re at” in the year, and with experience and interpretation you can anticipate what is going to happen!
What are your bees bringing in?
Do you know what they will be bringing in NEXT?