Red maple bloom: Gather ye pollen while ye may!

Remember way back in this early post where I described a bit about what types of plants bees are attracted to in different seasons? Well, during “bee school” last year (an excellent course put on by the Orange County Beekeepers Association), one of the instructors talked about the red maple as being one of the earliest blooming trees in the area, and at the time I was pleased to note that there is a huge red maple in our front yard, and a lot more throughout the neighborhood.  Here it is this year in “bloom”:


Red Maple in Bloom


Close-up: look at all the pollen!











So for the past couple weeks we’ve been looking for bee activity around the maple, in vain…until yesterday! It seems the flowers had finally burst open to expose their pollen. Rob took some very cool gopro videos of the bees gathering pollen from our tree.  Take a look:

You’ll notice the bees using their front legs to scoop up pollen grains from the flower, and then smoothly brushing it down along their body to place it her “pollen baskets” (aka: corbiculae) which look like large yellow saddle bags on her rear legs.  The slow-mo parts of the video are pretty amazing (and listen to those birds!).  Great camera work Rob!

Once her pollen baskets are full, she’ll return to the hive, where she will transfer the clump of pollen to another worker and then return to gather more.  Within the hive, pollen is made into “bee bread”, a mixture of nectar and pollen grains, and then stored in the cells of the comb.  Pollen and bee bread is especially important as a protein-rich food for the developing larva, and the abundance of pollen provided by the red maple bloom in early spring therefore stimulates the colony to produce more brood.  Spring ramp-up of colony size has begun!

Thanks for reading! We are so happy that our 2 hives have appeared to survive their first winter (a major milestone!), and we’re excited to begin our 2nd season with our bees!

E and R

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