Driving up to the Quantock BKA’s apiary in sight of Wales today, I noticed that in Somerset the elder is in full bloom while home in Dorset it’s still at the green bud stage. Is that because, being further north and thus nearer the midnight sun they get more hours of daylight than we southerners?
There weren’t many of us there, only 8. Apprentice Sarah of Bee Happy Plants had intended to be there as she is a pollen enthusiast but looking after her Mum rightly took priority so she asked me to blog about the day so she would learn what went on.
The apiary site covers about an acre and there were about a score of active hives scattered about and lots of nucs which are to get beginners started. When I arrived a learner was being shown how to move his bees from their nucleus to a full sized brood box as they were too crowded. I slipped on a veil and watched until it started to rain.
While eating my picnic lunch before the start of business I leafed through the BBKA Pocket Guide to the Honeybee and noticed on page 22 that honey is composed of fructose and sucrose and on page 34 that drones are infertile! I wonder who does their proof reading!
Glyn Davies was taking the lead today on examining and identifying pollen samples. There were several microscopes and also other techie stuff such as coffee cup warmers, plugged into a computer for a power supply which Glyn uses to warm glass microscope slides so the gel melts. I was impressed by what looked like a torch attached by cable to a computer which was a hand held microscope magnifying up to 500x and displaying the picture on the computer where it could be saved if desired. I shall look on Ebay for one!
I was also impressed by a new (to me) book: Pollen Microscopy by Norman Chapman which has excellent photos of flowers alongside those of their pollen. Rex Sawyer’s and Dorothy Hodges’ books were also present, but I already have those.
Glyn performed his trick of dissolving a spoonful of honey in a cup of warm water and then very gently trickling the solution through a coffee filter folded to fit a small funnel. Doing it gently ensures that the pollen grains are concentrated in one spot. This is then rubbed onto a blob a glycerine jelly on a slide before being warmed. The cover slip is warmed at the same time to avoid problems when it is placed over the gel.
When observed through a microscope several pollen grains could be examined but not identified. Glyn then delved into a bag of hazel pollen that he had collected earlier. Hazel pollen grains are recommended as size markers as they are consistently 25 microns across. His pollen grains didn’t look very much like the illustrations in the books though. He then went out into the apiary and come back with a comfrey (Symphytum officionale) flower and dabbed the stamens onto jelly to make up a slide. Again, although certain of the identity of the pollen, it didn’t look much like the illustrations.
It seems as if we shall have to do more work and training if we are to have a successful pollen identification project next year!
While we were there, there was a massive deluge onto the tin roof of the big shed we were in and it was so noisy that for several minutes we couldn’t hear anybody speak!
In the apiary was a swarm on a post that had been there since yesterday which, fortunately, had a skep on top of the post acting as an umbrella. I took a photo of them and would like to post it here but don’t know how! If anybody knows how to upload photos onto a WordPress blog site, please let me know.