Pollen Famines—Common Plants Valuable for Pollen — Many Irregular Flowers of Little Value — Two Groups of Pollen-Producing Plants — Wind-Pollinated Flowers — Deciduous-Leaved Trees, Conifers, Grasses, and Sedges — Pollen-Flowers.
In the absence of honey, bees may be able to live for a time on honey-dew, which in the tropics is produced in enormous quantities; but there is no satisfactory substitute for an ample store of pollen. Brood-rearing occurs from early spring until late fall, and there must be a continuous supply of pollen, or the queen ceases to lay eggs, and the larvae die in their cells. Except occasionally in early spring, bees seldom run short of pollen in the northern states; but in a few localities in the South, of which the best known is the tupelo region along the Apalachicola River in Florida, serious pollen famines occur. Most of the pollen in April and May in northwest Florida is obtained from the willows, maples, elms, and oaks; but, as the tupelo furnishes very little, there is a scarcity from June to September, or for about 75 days. This section well illustrates the importance of a beekeeper’s knowing the flora of his location, and how an absence of pollen during the breeding season in spring may nearly destroy a whole apiary. A similar scarcity of pollen occurs in southeast Texas. In Australia pollen famines recur regularly every season. There is a “critical period” in mid-summer when the pollen fails, the queen ceases to lay eggs, and the brood dies of starvation. This shortage is due to the small amount of pollen produced by the gum-trees, or Eucalypti; for example, a colony of bees working on yellow gum will dwindle down to a mere handful, although there is a tine crop of honey. Thus the prosperity of the colony depends upon an ample supply of pollen, and its sources are of vital importance to bee culture.
All flowers which yield nectar, except those which contain only pistils, also furnish more or less pollen. Many supply it in great abundance, as the willows, dandelion, acacia, banana, goldenrod, and sunflower; but others, like the tupelo, basswood, and some species of Eucalyptus, produce a very small amount. A large supply of pollen in early spring may be provided by planting staminate willow bushes along brooks or small streams and in low waste land. (Fig. 3.) As they are insect-pollinated, the pollen is so adhesive that none of it is blown away by the wind, as in the case of wind-pollinated plants, like the alders, oaks, and elms. Sunflowers are very easy of cultivation and produce pollen in great abundance for a long time. The acacias furnish a wealth of pollen which bees gather every moment they are able to fly.
Irregular-shaped flowers like the clovers, sages, alfalfa, locust, and catnip are not good sources of pollen, because the anthers are partially or wholly enclosed by the petals in such a manner that bees gather it with difficulty, and usually carry away to the hive only the small amount placed on their bodies by the mechanisms of the flowers. Contrary to the general belief, comparatively little pollen is obtained from white clover, and a bee never visits the bloom for this purpose alone.