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An annual shower of multifarious dust.

Hollyhock flowers with hidden bee
Hollyhock flower with hidden bee

Hollyhock flowers produce lots of pollen and are visited by many insects. This bumble bee is so heavily coated in pollen that you can hardly see that she's a bee.

She will take the pollen to the next flower where it will brush off to fertilise the flower and form seed.

Pollen pellets
Pollen pellets

Looking at pollen pellets collected from the pollen trap on one of Val's father's beehives, Norman noted great difference in the colours collected across just a few weeks in the summer.

Pollen collected can indicate what plants the bees are feeding on. It can be collected, stored, and provide a useful supplement, fed to the hive early in the season when food is scarce as the colony needs to build up.

From the central mix of pollen, pellets were separated into colours. The top, yellow pellets were collected 29th May, and the darker set below on 9th July. Look closely next time you see a poppy in flower and see whether the black pollen could have come from from poppies. Pollen illustrations reproduced with kind permission from "Pollen Microscopy" .

Pollen Microscopy drawing by Norman Chapman
Pollen Microscopy drawing by Norman Chapman

Pollen is a great subject for amateur microscopy. The Quekett Microscopical Club, together with Val's late father, produced a leaflet on pollen microscopy in their Things to look at with microscopes series.

The hollyhock pollen grain (shown here) is one of the larger pollen grains to look at down the microscope. By comparison, wind borne pollen is quite small.

Wind pollinated yew tree
Wind pollinated yew tree

Pollen is not only a way for plants to reproduce and maintaining diversity in future generations, it is a source of food and particularly protein for many creatures.

Wind pollinated plants, like yew and hazel trees, and grasses, produce far more than the single grain needed for pollination for one grain to stand a chance of reaching target.

Unfortunately not such good news for hay fever sufferers.

Wind dispersing the copious pollen from male Yew tree in Val's garden late February. More on yew trees in a future post.


Bee Drawing by Claire Murthy
Bee drawing by Claire Murthy

So what pollen will Izzie Lizzie be collecting in our book? and what plants, fruit and vegetables for our table will she be pollinating along the way?


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