Seeing Red: Holiday Red

Dec 25, 2013

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as "red pollen."

Like people, pollen comes in many colors and all are beautiful. All.

The floral source determines the color of the pollen. Just as nectar is a carbohydrate source, pollen is a protein source. Honey bees need both to rear the brood.

One of my favorite bee images is a photo I took in my backyard of a honey bee sipping nectar from lavender. "What's that red stuff on her?" non-bee folks ask.

Pollen. Red pollen.

Bee folks question its origin. It's from the nearby rock purslane (Calandrinia grandiflora). This honey bee, after gathering protein from the rock purslane, buzzed over to the lavender for some carbo loading.  A little fuel for her flight back to the hive.

Bees gather red pollen from many floral sources, including not only rock purslane--a succulent--but horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), pear (Pyrus communis), and henbit (Lamium amplexicaule).

When I see red pollen, I think of the beauty of a delicate flower transferred over to a hard-working bee. I don't think of the color's negative connotations: red tape, red-eye flight, red herring, and caught red-handed.

"Red pollen" is "Christmas red" or "holiday red."

Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! And the best of the new year!