POLLEN, OR BEE-BREAD.
" POLLEN is the fine fecundating dust or fine substance, like flour or meal, contained in the anther of flowers, which is dispersed on the stigma for impregnation."*
Bees collect large quantities of this substance and store it in their combs : to do this, they fly from flower to flower, gathering and forming the fine flour-like substance into two pellets in their fossae (or basket) which is a slight indentation, surrounded by short hairs, on their hind legs. In doing this the particles are first gathered in their mandible and then slightly moistened and compressed ; it is then taken in small particles with the fore feet and constantly passed back as gathered, and made to adhere in the fossae till finally their load is completed, presenting the appearance as shown in plate I, fig. 9. They then return to their hives and either use it immediately or deposit it in their cells, each of which they only partly fill : much of it is suffered to remain unsealed for immediate use, while a considerable portion is sealed over, after having each cell filled out with honey : it will then keep good for winter use, and frequently remains so for years.
This deposit is usually made in worker cells. It is true that bees sometimes are seen entering their hives, covered with the dust-like pollen of flowers without any pellets of the same, but they are invariably laden with honey, their excursion being only for the latter.
This dust is brushed off their bodies and is mostly found on the bottom of the hive, (if flat) where it serves as food for worms as well as a favorite lurking place for them.
A bee will confine itself to one kind of flower while collecting a load, either of honey or pollen ; and if both are found in the same flower, they load partly with each.
The color of pollen is always the same in the same kind of flower, hence the load of a bee is of the same color as that from which it is gathered. And as flowers are found of every color, so we see the bees returning to their homes each laden with pollen of a different hue. Even the honey is tinged from the same cause.
- N. Webster.
USE OF POLLEN Edit
Pollen is used solely as food. In connection with honey, it is indispensable for the nutrition of the young. It is also consumed by the adult bees ; yet they will survive through the winter without it, while if fed on it alone they soon die. The amount consumed by the bees of a single hive is very large, probably as high as thirty or forty pounds in a single year.
RYE MEAL AS A SUBSTITUTE Edit
" Though the importance of pollen has long been know, it is only of late that any attempts have been made to furnish a substitute. Dzierzon, early in the spring, observed his bees bringing rye meal to their hives from a neighboring mill, before they could procure any pollen from natural supplies. The hint was not lost ; and it is now a common practice in Europe, where bee-keeping is extensively carried on, to supply the bees early in the season with this article. Shallow troughs are set in front of the apiaries, filled about two inches deep with finely ground dry unbolted rye meal. Thousands of bees, when the weather is favorable, resort eagerly to them, and, rolling themselves in the meal, return heavily laden to their hives. In fine, mild weather, they labor at this work with great industry, preferring the meal to the old pollen stored in their combs. They thus breed early, and rapidly recruit their numbers. The feeding is continued till the blossoms furnishing a preferable article they cease to carry off the meal. The average consumption of each colony is about two pounds."*
I have fed my bees with rye meal and find it beneficial, particularly in a cold, backward spring. Some bee-keepers find fault that their bees store too much pollen ; this I believe but seldom occurs, at least, it never has with mine.
BEES AID IN FERTILIZING PLANTS Edit
" The value of hymenopterous insects as agents in fertilizing plants, has many times been demonstrated by experiment. We recollect an instance of this, which transpired many years ago, so connected with pleasant associations that it made a striking impression. While on a journey from St. Petersburg to the transcaucasian provinces, in the month of February, 1825, we were obliged, on account of the intense cold, to stop in the government of Twer, on the estate of our friend Gregor Wasiliewitsch Lihatchef, colonel in the Imperial Gards-a-Cbeval. There we were shown a very spacious hot-house, full of fine flowering plants ; and also, among others, about fifteen cherry trees, covered with blossoms. We congratulated Lady Lihatchef upon the prospect of a large crop of fruit, when she informed us that her gardiner had never succeeded in raising more than one dish-full of fruit from all those trees. We as-' sure'd her that if she would place in her green-house a few full bee-hives, there would be a charm about them that would insure her an abundant harvest of fruit. Two years afterward we visited that lady in Moscow, on our return from the Caucasus, when she desired an explanation of the charm connected with the bee-hive; for/ said she,* since they were placed in the hot-house, all the trees have produced fruit in abundance.' We then explained to her that the bees collect the pollen of the flowers, and, at the same -time, bring this fertilizing farina of the stamens in contact with the germ, which then produces the fruit."*
" While the honey bee is regarded by the best informed horticulturists as a friend, a strong prejudice has been excited against it by many fruit-growers in this country ; and in some communities, a man who keeps bees, is considered as bad a neighbor as one who allows his poultry to despoil the gardens of others. Even the warmest friends of the 'busy bee' may be heard lamenting its propensity to banquet on their beautiful peaches and pears, and choicest grapes."
- The Life of North American Insects, by B. Jaeger.
BEES NOT INJURIOUS TO GRAPES Edit
" In conversation with a gentleman, I once assigned three reasons why the bees could not inflict any extensive injury upon his grapes. First : that as the Creator appears to have intended both the honey bee and fruit for the comfort of man, it was difficult to conceive that he would have made one the natural enemy of the other. Second: that as the supplies of honey from the blossoms had entirely failed, the season (1854) being exceedingly dry, if the numerous colonies in his vicinity had been able to help themselves to his sound grapes% they would have entirely devoured the fruit of his vines. Third : that the jaws of the bee, being adapted chiefly to the manipulation of wax, were too feeble to enable them to puncture the skin of his most delicate grapes.
" In reply to these arguments, being invited to go to his vines, and see the depredators in the very acft, the result justified my anticipations. Though many bees were seen banqueting on grapes, not one was doing any mischief to the sound fruit. Grapes which were bruised on the vines, or lying on the ground, and the moist stems from which grapes had recently been plucked, were covered with bees ; while other bees were observed to alight upon bunches, which, when found by careful inspection to be sound, they left with evident disappointment."
Wasps and hornets, which secrete no wax, being furnished with strong, saw-like jaws, for cutting the woody fiber with which they build their combs, can easily penetrate the skin of the toughest fruits : while the bees, therefore, appeared to be comparatively innocent, multitudes of these depredators were seen helping themselves to the best of the grapes. Occasionally a bee would presume to alight upon a bunch where one of these pests was operating for his own benefit, when the latter would turn and ' show fight,' much after the fashion of a snarling dog, molested by another of his species while daintily discussing his own private bone.
"After the mischief has been begun by other insects, or wherever a crack or a spot of decay is seen, the honey bee hastens to help itself, on the principle of gathering up the fragments, that nothing may be lost.' In this way, they undoubtedly do some mischief; but before war is declared against them, let every fruit-grower inquire if, on the whole, they are not far more useful than injurious. As bees carry on their bodies the pollen, or fertilizing substance, they aid most powerfully in the impregnation of plants, while prying into the blossoms in search of honey or bee-bread. In genial seasons, fruit will often set abundantly, even if no bees are kept in its vicinity ; but many springs are so unpropitious, that often during the critical period of blossoming, the sun shines for only a few hours, so that those only can reasonably expect a remunerative crop whose trees are all murmuring with the pleasant hum of bees.
" A large fruit-grower told me that his cherries were a very uncertain crop, a cold north-east storm frequently prevailing when they were in blossom ; he had noticed that if the sun shone only for a couple of hours, the bees secured him a crop."
If the horticulturists who regard the bee as an enemy, could exterminate the race, they would .act with as little wisdom as those who attempt to banish.