Red Pollen on my honeybees?

Red pollen on honeybee

Every March through April the question comes up. “What’s with the red pollen my bees are bringing in?” So I’m writing this post in the hopes that whoever Googles the question will find the answer here. There are several plants that produce red pollen later in the year. But the main plant that produces large amounts of red pollen in spring is purple deadnettle (lamium purpureum). In my area of Pennsylvania, it blooms right after red maple and long before dandelions. Huge blankets of deadnettle grow in farm fields before herbicides are applied, in unmanicured lawns, and along roadsides.

Honeybee on purple deadnettle
Photo by: Levi Collins

First completed colony removal of 2020

A local tree removal company discovered a honeybee colony in a tree they felled. Rather than spray them, thankfully they went to Google and found me. I was at work when they initially called, so while they waited for me to return the call, they called a few other honeybee “rescuers”. They were quoted fees of $400 and $600 USD to come remove the bees. I told them I’d not only take them away for free, but I’ll bring all three of the guys at the job site a jar of honey (with my phone number on each jar, of course). They were very happy with this and assured me they would call me about any future honeybees they run into. I made a short video of the events that day. It got chilly very quickly that day, so I left very few bees behind. Sorry the music is so loud in this video. These bees are bringing in the pollen at home now. Soon they should swarm, and I will be ready.

2019 Swarm Recap

I made a fun little video of some of the swarms I collected in 2019. Some people think there are no bees in their area, so they think they can’t be successful acquiring swarms. This isn’t true. You just have to be motivated to go out there and get them. Swarm trapping is great, and I do that too, but getting my name out there with business cards and “word of mouth” gets me a ton of new bees to play with every year.

Spotted lanternfly “flow”

If you’re from the East coast of the United States, you know about the recent invasion of the spotted lanternfly from China. It is causing all kinds of problems here. I live at ground zero for the pest, as it was first discovered just a few miles from here. Some places, they fly across the road while you’re driving like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. I recently noticed my bees lapping up their sugary waste products, which rain down from the trees and collect on leaves below. Spotted lanternflies are very similar to aphids, only much larger. The excrement of aphids is called honeydew, and bees have been known to collect it and produce a honey-like substance. It seems that lanternfly waste is similar in composition, because I discovered my bees collecting it excitedly, along with bumblebees and butterflies.

While inspecting some colonies today, I could see the uncapped “nectar” of these bugs. It was as black and shiny as motor oil, and filled every available cell. This is a brand new thing for me, so time will tell how this odd source of sugar affects the bees, and whether spotted lanternfly “honey” will be a hit.

The end of the “Spool hive”

I had suspected that this colony was unsuccessful requeening itself after swarming 2 months ago. The activity had declined noticeably over that time. Now they are being robbed at 6am by several colonies on my yard. Once the event is over, it will give me a chance to take the spool apart and see what’s inside. Thankfully, I have many descendants of the original queen that came along with this colony, including the atleast 2 year old queen herself in a booming healthy colony.