My name is Dr Margriet Dogterom and am the founder and owner of Beediverse. I write this blog for all who love bees and who want to learn more about these wonderful creatures.

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pollen on branched hair

Branched hairs on bees make it possible for bees to collect pollen.

pollen dehiscing anther

Flower anthers that produces pollen grains.

cleared blueberry flower

A blueberry flower cleared to make the central stigma and surrounding anthers visible.

pollen on stigma

The female stigma of a blueberry flower. Pollen grains are clearly visible on the surface.

pollen tubes fluorescent

Pollen tubes in the stem of the stigma. (special stain)

pollen grain microscope

Blueberry pollen grains stained with fuchsin dye.

Pollination is the transfer of pollen from one flower to another.  The bee does this very effectively.  Bees have branched hairs that carry pollen grains.  Pollen is collected from the  male part of the flower called the anther.  When the pollen laden bee arrives at a blueberry flower and the bee scrabbles around for pollen and or nectar, some of the pollen on the bees body lands on the sticky stigma or female part of the flower.   After pollen grains land on the sticky surface of the stigma, each pollen grain will produce a pollen tube down the stem of the stigma (style) into the ovule.  Fertilization of the ovule soon follows and this ovule develops into a seed.  Growth and enlargement of the fruit is a response to seed development.

The more seeds in a blueberry, the larger is the fruit.

Wild range land in North East Washington.

Wild range land in North Eastern Washington. Photo M. Dogterom

From ‘Bees of the World, editor Fran Bach

Help bees by restoring natural landscapes, roadside planting, green belts, green roofs and urban gardening initiatives.  As a county with an economy strongly tied to agriculture, Solano County should care greatly about the health and well-being of bees.  Educating local residents on ways to improve local living conditions for bee populations was the aim of a highly popular program being hosted by Solano Land Trust at Rush Ranch, recently.  The program, moderated by University of California, Davis Professor Emeritus Robbin Thorp, helped define exactly what bees are and aren’t, identified some different varieties and ways to help support those bee populations.  Related to wasps, which are carnivorous, Thorp said that bees, “are simply wasps that have gone vegan,” relying on pollen and nectar as a food source.  Another key difference is that bees, unlike wasps, not only collect pollen but are adapted to do so efficiently. Bees have branched hairs on their bodies, which wasps do not, aiding in their capacity to carry pollen. Likewise, bees generate an electrostatic charge when they fly, helping pollen cling to them.  The most surprising fact for many was the wide variety of bee species. Most people likely associate bees with the creatures that make honey, but there are between 20,000 to 30,000 bee species in North America, which is more than the total number of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians combined.

Original article in Beeculture by Bill Hicks.  Link to article.

 

Although honey bees provide blueberry2successful pollination for most blueberries, there are some situations where honey bees may not be the best pollinator of choice.

Mason bees would be a good choice for late blueberry  varieties.  The reason is that when late blooming varieties bloom, many other flowers, such as blackberry are also in bloom.  Blackberry bloom produces copious amounts of nectar and soon all honey bees go to blackberry instead of blueberry bloom.

The big advantage of using mason bees is that mason bees do not travel far to find their source of pollen and nectar (like honey bees).  Honey bees will travel significant distances for the best nectar, while mason bees remain local foragers.

Some blueberry varieties are known to be difficult to pollinate by honey bees.  In this situation, honey bees travel away from the variety to other varieties that may have a richer source of nectar for example.  In this case, mason bees are more likely to ‘stick’ around the variety that is closest to their nest.

At this stage of the mason bee industry, mason bees are more and more available for the commercial pollination of blueberry and other crops.  Mason bees are now produced in the hundreds of thousands rather than the thousands of 20 years ago.  This expanding production makes pollination with mason bees a reality.  Dr. Margriet Dogterom

 

 

 

 

“KFAR BILU, Rehovot  A bee buzzed around the yellow, bell-shaped flower of  the Lemon Mallee eucalyptus, one of dozens of eucalyptus varietals planted in an empty lot sandwiched between a supermarket and Route 40 of the busy
Bilu Junction.  Its quiet, gracing presence in this orchard of smooth-barked eucalyptus trees proves that when flowering trees are planted, even on a dilapidated beesandcomb2highway divider, they help preserve the local habitat for pollinating bees.”

Improving nectar and pollen availability improves the availability of food for all bees.

Read more by Jessica Steinberg

 

bumblebees_all

Overhead view of a bumble bee colony. Each closed cell contains one developing pupa. Each open cell contains one larva in the active feeding stage. Cells with ‘shiny contents are old cells used to store honey. Pots with dark contents contain pollen.   Bumble bees lay over the developing larvae providing the necessary heat for development.  Photo M. Dogterom

From the ‘News from the world of bees’ Editor Fran Bach.   Jan 2017

PICKY EATERS: BUMBLE BEES PREFER PLANTS WITH NUTRIENT-RICH POLLEN

Bumble bees have discriminating palates when it comes to their pollen meals, according to researchers at Penn State. The researchers found that bumble bees can detect the nutritional quality of pollen, and that this ability helps them selectively forage among plant species to optimize their diets.

“Populations of many bee species are in decline across the world, and poor nutrition is thought to be a major factor causing these declines,” said Christina Grozinger, director of the Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State. “Our studies can help identify plant species and stocks that provide high-quality nutrition for bumble bees and potentially other bee species, which will help in the development of pollinator friendly gardens and planting strips.” According to Anthony Vaudo, a graduate student in entomology who led the study, scientists previously believed that bees’ preferences for flowering plants were driven by floral traits, such as color, scent, morphology or nectar concentration. “Here we show that bumble bees actually choose a plant for the nutritional quality of its pollen,” said Vaudo. “This is important because pollen is bees’ primary source of protein and lipids.”

Read more…

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