Bees Carrying Pollen


Over the years, I have managed to capture some wonderful pictures of bees carrying pollen.

Whilst some of these pictures already feature elsewhere on my site, I thought it would be nice to put them all on one page, so that you can clearly see bees collecting pollen in different ways, depending on the species.

How is pollen collected?

With all species, pollen is collected on hairs that are specially adapted in some way, so that the bee can carry pollen from flower to flower during the foraging trip, and then finally back to the nest (or hive if a managed honey bee).

Pollen baskets - corbiculae

Social bumble bees and honey bees carry and transport pollen in corbiculae - or pollen baskets - but what are they?


They are located on the outside of the hind legs of female bees, and consist of a slightly concave (curved) area surrounded by long hairs. 

The pollen is moistened with nectar, and packed into the corbiculae, which act as baskets, trapping and holding the pollen in place.  


The pollen baskets on this bumble bee can be seen on the hind legs, but they are not very full.The pollen baskets on this bumble bee can be seen on the hind legs, but they are not very full.


At the beginning of a foraging trip, the pollen baskets will be empty of pollen, and so will be invisible.  Gradually as the bee continues with its foraging activities, the pollen baskets can be seen.  As the pollen baskets grow increasingly full, they are highly visible.  

This bumble bee's pollen baskets are more full, round and visible on the hind legs.This bumble bee's pollen baskets are more full, round and visible on the hind legs.


Pollen baskets can be seen on this bumble bee flying toward raspberry flowers.Pollen baskets can be seen on this bumble bee flying toward raspberry flowers.

There will be slight variations in shade, from very pale yellow to darker yellow/orange, depending on the pollen collected.

You can see the pollen baskets on this honey bee on a Japanese anemone contain pollen, but they are not very full.You can see the pollen baskets on this honey bee on a Japanese anemone contain pollen, but they are not very full.


The pollen baskets on this honey bee contain significantly more pollen than is the case above.The pollen baskets on this honey bee contain significantly more pollen than is the case above.


Scopa

Scopa are dense hairs, usually either on the hind legs, or on the underside of the abdomen on some female solitary bee species.

The scopa on the underside of the abdomen (also called a 'pollen brush') is especially visible in some members of the Megachilidae family, such as the leafcutters.

On this photograph, you can clearly see the pollen on the underside of the abdomen of this leafcutter bee (a member of the Megachilidae family).On this photograph, you can clearly see the pollen on the underside of the abdomen of this leafcutter bee (a member of the Megachilidae family).


Another leafcutter bee - this time with an orange pollen brush.Another leafcutter bee - this time with an orange pollen brush.


Leafcutter bees sometimes raise their abdomens when foraging, making the pollen brush especially visible, however, it can also be seen even when the bee is in flight - it's simply a matter of looking out for it.

Top view of a leafcutter bee.  The pollen-laden scopa (pollen brush) is nevertheless visible, even from this angle.Top view of a leafcutter bee. The pollen-laden scopa (pollen brush) is nevertheless visible, even from this angle.

In other solitary bee species, scopa may be seen on the hind legs.  

Scopa may be seen on the hind legs.Scopa may be seen on the hind legs.

The appearance of the pollen is less compact than is the case with the corbiculae on bumble bees and honey bees.

When gathered on the scopa on the hind legs, the pollen has a looser, dryer appearance.When carried by bees on the scopa on the hind legs, the pollen has a looser, dryer appearance.

Body hair

The hairy bodies of bees are often seen dusted with pollen.  The pollen caught on the body of the bee as it forages on flowers, may be groomed and collected and transferred to the pollen baskets or scopa.

At the same time, the pollen catching on the hair helps to ensure that bees are highly effective pollinators, as pollen grains are transferred from one flower to the next.

The hairy bodies of bees are often seen dusted with pollen.The hairy bodies of bees are often seen dusted with pollen.


As the bee forages on flowers, pollen grains are transferred from one flower to the next, thus helping to ensure pollination.As the bee forages on flowers, pollen grains are transferred from one flower to the next, thus helping to ensure pollination.


Why do bees need nectar and pollen?

You can read about this subject here.





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