One of our undergraduate students, Andrew Garavito, spent some time up close and personel with pollen. I invite you to read his blog about his experience…
The first time I opened a beehive was during the summer of 2011. Since that day, I took any opportunity I could to help with the honey bees at the Central Maryland Research and Education Center (CMREC) Beltsville facility. I conducted hive maintenance and assisted with a few in-hive studies. After two summers of field work with the hives at the University of Maryland’s CMREC, I moved towards the lab side of things when I started working in the vanEngelsdorp Lab.
Since September, I have been processing and identifying pollen trap samples from the Kunze and Arrowwood yards of North Dakota. I started by sorting a 3 gram sample of pollen by color (with the assumption that each pellet of the same color is from the same type of plant), and then recording the mass of each color. Next, I identified the plant family that each pollen color came from. I did this for pollen trap samples taken from multiple hives in each yard; these samples were taken five or six times from June to September. I compiled the data for all the hives from one yard into graphs showing the pollen diversity over the whole yard for each sample date.
The Arrowwood, and Kunze yards can both be described as meadow/grassland sites. This resulted in very similar trends of pollen diversity over the different sample dates. From June to early August, plants from the Fabaceae family were the primary pollen sources for both yards. During the middle of August through September, the majority of the pollen from each yard came from Asteraceae plants. Looking at pollen from agricultural sites would be a great way to learn more about trends in pollen foraging and diversity in different environments. While samples from agricultural sites exist, I was not able to go through them this semester. However, starting in January, I will be going through more pollen samples from other North Dakota yards. This will enable me to develop a more complete picture of the differences in a hive’s pollen diversity when comparing hives from meadow (natural) yards to those in agricultural yards.
I am looking forward to continuing my work with honey bees. I am particularly interested in learning about pollen foraging behavior, and if there are correlations between pollen diversity and overall hive health. Learning about the differences in pollen and nectar foraging behavior of honey bees from various environments may shed light on why the health of the nation’s honey bee populations are declining. It is important work, and I am very excited to be a part of it.