The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Pollen counts

Busy bee hive

Bee feederSaturday morning, I decided to amuse myself with a pollen count.  No, I'm not talking about the type of pollen count that allergy sufferers concern themselves with --- I mean counting how many worker bees were carrying pollen into each of our hives.

As I explained in a previous post, all of the eggs laid by our queen before the hive split should now be capped brood.  So the hypothesis was that I could tell which hive ended up with the queen by looking for the colony into which workers were still bringing pollen.

The mother hive location had so many bees coming in and out (top photo) that my count might be off by a bit, but I think I managed to catch most of the returning workers.  I definitely counted every bee coming into the daughter hive.  Here's what I found out:

Mother Hive
Daughter Hive
Time of day
10:54 am
11:05 am
Length of data collection time
1 min. 30 sec.
5 min. 55 sec.
# workers entering with pollen
# workers entering without pollen
% of workers bringing pollen
Pollen carriers per minute
In full sun; lots of bees at feeder
Sun just starting to hit hive; no bees at feeder

The conclusion?  To my surprise, both colonies were still bringing home pollen at a relatively high rate.  It looks like my I can't tell which hive has the queen based on pollen counts after all! 

Empty comb

I was interested to see that the old piece of bee-keeping wisdom --- bees bring in pollen to feed brood --- seems to be only partially true at best.  And it makes sense to me that a colony would collect pollen whenever the protein source is available since they'll need to store some for times of dearth.

It looks like I'll have to keep my eyes open for other signs of queens, like batches of new workers coming out for test flights.  And then there's my old standby of peering up under the bottom of the hive.  Stay tuned for more investigative reporting from the apiary!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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