I was excited when my local beekeeping association organised a microscopy evening.
Someone brought in a hazel twig. I knew what catkins were but had never really looked closely at the tree (except later in the year when searching out the nuts to harvest). It was a surprise when they pointed out the flowers. Under a low powered microscope, the tiny red alien-looking filaments poked out from the top of a bud. This twig came from a tree in full bloom, yet walking casually by you’d never know it!
The pollen was stored in the male catkin and the stigma located in the female flowers. I later found out that a plant with male and female parts was known as monoecious.
In my locality hazel is probably the most significant source of pollen in Spring. We have some crocuses and snowdrops out in the garden and a few lesser celandine and primroses in the woodland areas. In the hedgerows gorse is still in flower.
In other areas of the UK there is willow, alder and other early garden plants in bloom. Hawthorn and dandelion are not yet out as it is still early March as I write this.
The bees have been bringing in pollen, when the weather allows, so luckily my 4 colonies seem to have come through the winter and are preparing for brood. It’s too early (and cold) to attempt any inspection other than check fondant supplies at the top of the hives.
Back to the microscopy evening, one member of the association saw hazel pollen under the microscope, described them as looking like ladies undergarments and labelled them Hazel’s knickers! Decide for yourself (link below)
A lovely interactive pollen chart, with their colours, has been posted by the Sheffield Beekeepers Association (link below).