This past weekend, I had the very great pleasure to be at a workshop given by artist, Lori Weidenhammer (the official “Madame Bee Speaker”) at the UBC Farm. Lori was downright fabulous–informative, engaging (and entertaining). Her passion for bees is infectious, and I think that all the students left that afternoon with a wealth of new knowledge under their belts (as did I).
Lori gave me the opportunity to try my hand at sonic pollination in the field, with borage blossoms, but unfortunately, I was not successful.
When I got home though, I was determined to try again. I harvested a stem of borage from my garden, put it in water and waited for a bit for the plant to acclimatize to the new environment. Each blue blossom has stunning deep purple anthers. I held a blossom over black paper, and with my tuning fork (“C”) zapped the anthers with the vibrating fork. Presto! A lovely little puff of pollen fell onto the paper! What a thrill. Apparently there are several genera of bees that can buzz pollinate–bumblebees, sweat bees, carpenter bees and some stingless bees. Honeybees do not have this ability.
I’ve also been collecting fireweed (Chamerion Angustifolium) and managed to get enough pollen to create a reasonable color sample. The fireweed pollen is sticky. It has viscin threads on each pollen grain, which makes it clump together and as a result, the pollen doesn’t come off the anthers easily.
In the image below, I’ve placed 2 fireweed anthers on the color samples in Dorothy Hodges’ book, The Pollen Loads of the Honey Bee, and got a reasonably close match to Hodges’ lightest Fireweed color. Fresh anther pollen is different in tonality from the pollen loads collected by honeybees and bumblebees, and it also varies in tonality from year to year and plant to plant, depending upon the environment in which the plant grows.
But look at those anthers–the filaments are pinky-purple. What a wonderful contrast to the blue/green pollen.