Why Are There Flower Particles on my Bottom Board?

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Why Are There Flower Particles on my Bottom Board?

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David D from Massachusetts asks:

Removing the sticky boards after varroa treatment, I noticed one had a noticeable amount of Russian Sage blossom bits on it. I have never come across any mention of honey bees bringing flower bits into the hive.

Rusty Burlew replies:

When we see flower parts stuck to bees, it’s usually the pollenia of either milkweeds or orchids. The pollenia are pollen-filled sacks that stick to the pollinator like glue and eventually fall off on another flower. Honey bees are most apt to engage with milkweed pollenia, and sometimes they have so many long and stringy orange sacks hanging from their legs they can barely fly.

Russian sage doesn’t have pollenia, of course, but all parts of the plant exude a sticky sap or resin. After reading your question, I went out to my Russian sage and ran one hand over the leaves, and it quickly became both sticky and fragrant. I then ran my other hand along an inflorescence, and it became sticky with several petals stuck to it.

Most likely, the bees are becoming sticky as they collect pollen or drink nectar, and then bits and pieces of the blossoms stick to it. The bee may even have some flower parts packed right into her pollen baskets. Although I have never seen petals protruding from pollen baskets, I have seen flower anthers sticking out from them like little antennas.

When honey bees get back to the hive, workers discard any blossoms that stick to the pollen, and the bee herself will groom away any stuck to her body. Those are the pieces you’re likely to see on your bottom board.

Another possibility is that the honey bees are collecting resin from the Russian sage for manufacturing propolis. This would also create enough stickiness to attract flower petals.

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