The humble dandelion


When we inspected the hives at Hughenden Manor yesterday, the pollen being brought in seemed particularly vibrant in colour.  We saw bright yellow and also a bright orange.  I’d not anticipated such generous pollen loads with the days of heavy rain we’d had.  A field of oil seed rape may account for the yellow.  Implication is that honey bees go mad for OSR so the fact some were visiting something else was interesting in itself.

Heading for my pollen guide – or an online resource. http://www.bristolbeekeepers.org.uk/  shows dandelion might be the most likely source and as we drove away I saw quite a few dandelions.  perhaps the frequent downpours had stopped grass mowing leaving more dandelions on view?  The dandelions seemed fully open (and it was about 4 pm).

This video clip certainly started the brain cells pondering.  It reminded me that dandelions appear almost everywhere and once there is one it won’t be long before it multiplies and it is hard to get rid of.  Dandelion and bee video.  The airborne seed heads may contribute to this – but then of course this emphasises that the dandelion doesn’t rely on the honeybee for pollination.

Next I found some learned articles that stretched my own knowledge .  It suggested that dandelions begin to close at about 11.00 am and by 1pm about 40% were closed.  This seemed to contradict my observation yesterday that lots of dandelions were fully open at 4 pm.  However, one observer had stated that free antithesis of dandelions occurred when temperatures were between 8 and 14 degrees C with maximum pollen presentation between 10 and 11 am.  For apple blossom key temperatures were  between 10 and 19 degrees C with max pollen presentation between 12.00 mid day and 4.00 pm..  This did seem to contrast with the fact the bees were coming in so very laden with dandelion much later in the day.  It had been such a murky start to the day perhaps it delayed the time or the temperature trigger for maximum pollen?

If I had any doubts that I had correctly identified the pollen as from dandelions, this blog called the Honey Beat was dated April 21st this year

The dandelion beat

The dandelion beat

This linked well with some bee sight research I had done showing how bees view a dandelion taking account of UV effect   I realised that I’d discounted the humble dandelion and quickly found questions in my head to which I was ashamed to say I didn’t know the answer.  For example, does a dandelion close up when it rains?  Does it yield both pollen and nectar?  If it does close up in rain and if it does indeed have nectar as well as pollen, does this mean that the nectar doesn’t get washed away?  And how does the bee get the pollen when the structure of the dandelion seems like a double flower and we know that double flowers are not good for honey bees?  Does this mean that in some weather conditions the dandelion becomes a more important source of pollen than at other times?

My next gem almost brought me full circle and made my smile.  My online buddy Rusty of HoneybeeSuite.com has been here ahead of me.  She wrote in June 2010 Honey bees cannot survive on dandelions alone   and explained that dandelion pollen does not contain 4 important amino acids.  I think my questions are often very amateurish and Rusty adds a little academic rigour and she has done it again.  Her comments about monoculture and the risk of missing some vital nutrients also echoed the pollen talk at the Bucks County Beekeepers seminar.  Surely our willingness to pay for monofloral honeys such as manuka, acacia or borage therefore drive some to encourage what could be a flawed exposure to a single source?  My first colony so often seemed to be bringing in 3 different pollens – were these sources chosen chosen by the bees according to some individual preference or is there an overall control such that though any one forager remains loyal to one plant, the colony as a whole chooses a range of sources for maximum nutritional value?

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About apiarylandlord

Definitely past it - whatever it was - I may have blinked and missed it. New to beekeeping and totally entranced by the experience. That is probably all you need to know until I work out how secure this blog is. Great fan of recycling - see ilovefreegle.org to find your local group. Save things from landfill. Pass on your surplus, locally, for free or ask for things you need in case you can have someone's cast off again for free.
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3 Responses to The humble dandelion

  1. LifeDelicacy says:

    Reblogged this on LifeDelicacy's Blog and commented:
    Beekeepers: An Important Link to Survival!

  2. Emily Heath says:

    Thanks for putting all this info together. I usually see my bees bringing in several different colours too. Perhaps in a healthy ecosystem with lots of pollen sources available there doesn’t need to be overall colony control of the pollen coming in, as there would be little likelihood of thousands of foragers all selecting the same plant.

  3. I know it is very simplistic, but I can’t help thinking that we wouldn’t be healthy if we only devoured one thing – so why should that not apply to bees? When you delve into protein levels in pollen you find that they vary. I’ve read that different pollens have different nutrients. The only mystery to me is that OSR seems not to be a very protein rich pollen yet bees go mad for it. Is it their equivalent of chocolate?

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