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Vacation Pollination: Saguaro

16 May

Seeing the saguaro bloom was the only thing I wanted for my birthday. And I got it.

Daylight pollination of the saguaro cactus

Daylight pollination of the saguaro cactus

A four day weekend in Tucson, AZ and a 6am hike in the Sonoran desert chalked up the moment I was waiting for… Though the stately saguaro cacti are usually pollinated at night by bats (the Lesser Long-nosed Bat, to be exact),  the blossoms remain open for a few hours each morning giving local honeybees a shot at the goodies.

[More saguaro photos on Flickr]

The Great Rosemary Bloom

6 Apr

I moved to Albuquerque for the rosemary. Unlike Chicago, here you can grow rosemary outdoors, harvesting its resiny leaves 12 months a year for your polenta and scones and garlicky lamb.

And if Winter was wet enough but not TOO wet, rosemary shrubs in Albuquerque will bloom each Spring like a cloud of violets drawing bees from miles around.

Honeybee and rosemary

Honeybee and rosemary

The Pollen Files: Three-Leaf Sumac

28 Mar

Spring is a fickle vixen in the high desert of Albuquerque. Three weeks ago, the girls were feisty and fixin’ to swarm. Last night, the water in their bird bath was frozen.

Never you mind, though, because the pollen rush continues.

Gathering nectar and pollen from three-leaf sumac

Gathering nectar and pollen from three-leaf sumac

Walking past a nondescript bush this afternoon, I noticed it vibrating with activity like a bowling alley on league night. It’s three-leaf sumac (Rhus trilobata), a desert shrub whose glory days come each fall when the leaves turn bright, bright red.

But my honey bees love it now. As it blooms in early spring from tiny pale catkins, they swarm it like the high school wallflower turned ravishing beauty at their 10 year reunion. Rhus trilobata is in its prime.

The Pollen Files: Gopher Spurge

19 Mar

Otherwise oblivious to my surroundings, keeping bees has forced this big city girl to slow the hell down and smell the pollen.

Hardly a captivating show, gopher spurge is one of the earliest bloomers in Albuquerque but my girls found it immediately. Not only does gopher spurge give up a juicy load of nectar but it produces pollen too, with a coral, almost red color.

Honeybee collecting pollen from gopher spurge

Honeybee collecting pollen and nectar from gopher spurge

The last bee bears the coral-red pollen from gopher spurge

The last bee bears the coral-red pollen from gopher spurge