The honeybee I am about to paint is carrying pollen and is foraging on lavender, so it’s important that I make sure the pollen colour is correct. Lavender pollen is a rich yellow colour, which you can see if you look closely at the flowers.
From the wonderful UK microscopy site, PS Micrographs, here is a thumbnail of a coloured electron micrograph of a lavender pollen grain Lavendula dentata.
Lavender Pollen Grain © by Cheryl Power
When I first started my work on bees, I had a vague idea that pollen came in different shapes and colours but in fact the variety of colour and shape is really quite stunning, beautiful, both in colour and form.
Mixed Pollen: Image : http://en.wikivisual.com/index.php/Sporopollenin
You can find pollen colour guides on the internet. There is an excellent interactive chart on the Bristol Beekeepers site, http://www.bristolbeekeepers.org.uk/. Go there, and click on the colours to see which pollen belongs to which plant.
Don’t you just love colour charts!
You can buy printed guides such as this one, by William Kirk from IBRA.
And if you are rich you can acquire one of the very desirable “The Pollen Loads of the Honey Bees” published in 1952 by beekeeper and artist Mrs Dorothy Hodges.
I have, sadly, not seen an original copy but I do know it has wonderful tipped in colour samples. She not only painted pollen colours but described the process of pollen gathering. I quote from a thesis on “Willow” written by Syliva Briercliffe and published on Dave Cushman’s Bee site here
“She (Dorothy Hodges) describes in her book the pollen packing process, of bees on poppies (papaver) - these flowers yield only pollen. The bee scrambling among the anthers gets dusted all over with pollen grains. She leaves the flower and hovers, stroking her tongue over her forelegs and moistening the pollen with regurgitated honey. Using brushes on her legs and the antennae on her head… she moulds the pollen pack around a single hair on her corbicula (pollen basket). “
Here is a reproduction of the (printed) Summer Pollen chart from a later edition of the book.
Thanks to Denver Botanic Gardens' Botanical Art blog for reproducing this.
The blue and purple pollens are astonishing, aren’t? I knew about the wonderful dark pollen of poppies, but here again from the PS Micrographs site are some thumbnails of extraordinary pollen grains. Do go and have a look at their wonderful work. Some of the bits and pieces of bugs are really amazing.
Hyssop Pollen and a very timely image of the super important Ivy Pollen.
Leucospermum pollen and Marrow pollen, all images from PS Micrographs.
I am back up in chilly Lincolnshire for a while and although we have ivy here I have not seen much life on it, mostly just hoverflies.. but then it has been very very cold. But I am going out to have a look at the pollen!