Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lip Smacking Deliciousness: Pollen and Nectar

Allium sphaerocephalum an attractive nectar source for bees and some butterflies
It's summer and the  flowers are  open for business.  Pollen is ready and the nectar is flowing. It's the perfect time to watch the bees (and other pollinators)  that live in your garden. 
This morning~Bee on Agastache 'Golden Jubilee'
Bees are fascinating looking creatures. They  are beautifully and perfectly adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen.  They  have a  proboscis for reaching deeply into a flower for nectar  and  hairy bodies that catch the pollen as they move from flower to flower.
last fall
Bees aren't in the business of pollinating, that's incidental to their primary task~finding food and raising the next generations!

They are as busy as...well, as bees can be.   They need nectar for energy and pollen for  their offspring/larvae.

Pollen is the  fine dust-like grains or powder formed within the anther of a flowering plant,  that must be transported from the stamen to the pistil for reproduction to occur. 

Nectar is a sweet and rich carbohydrate liquid made of amino acids, vitamins, metal ions and even protein.  (source)  It's the perfect energy booster and food for bees and other pollinators.

 Flowers produce nectar to  attract bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, bats and hummingbirds.  While collecting the nectar, pollinators transfer pollen from male flowers to female flowers.  Nature cleverly designed it to happen that way!   The floral nectaries, where nectar is produced,  are positioned at the base  of the perianth insuring that the bee's hairy body will  brush the flower's  anthers and pistil (reproductive system) and pick up those pollen grains.

Bees need regular sources of pollen and nectar.  They need energy to fuel their busy bee-ness and pollen and nectar for their young. Honeybees collect nectar and make honey for the hive residents, but, native bees make a concoction of bee saliva, nectar and pollen to feed their offspring.
Agastache is a bee magnet in my garden

I know, I've written this before~ If you want to attract bees and other pollinators to your garden:

  • plant large swathes of pollinator friendly,  nectar and pollen producers
  • plant host plants~don't stop at nectar and pollen plants
  • plan for bloom from late spring to early winter.
  • bee sure to include water
  • provide nesting sites for a variety of visitors, some bare ground (ix-nay on the plastic landscape cloth) and decaying logs and even special bee houses
  • Be aware that some new cultivars are not pollinator friendly.  When plants are bred to bloom for a very long time,  to be disease resistant or to have especially big, colorful flowers they might not make pollen or nectar.
Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' is stunningly beautiful, but, completely sterile with NO visitors since she was planted!
Those plants go into containers to look pretty~Not in the  limited space in my Susan's  bed.


PS Now, please  raise your camera and solemnly swear that your will never, ever, ever, ever, ever use pesticides in your garden.  Now don't you feel better for having made that commitment!

In case you want to read earlier pollinator posts~

Now Is The Time To Bee-gin Thinking About Bees ( here)
This Is The Place To Bee ( here)
If You Could Plant Only One Plant In Your Garden~Don't (here)
Must Bee The Season of The Witch (here)
Go Bare In Your Garden (here)
We can't All Be Pretty Pollinators (here)
Eye, Eye Skipper, Big Eyed Pollinators (here)
What's In Your Garden (here)
Carpenter Bees (here)
Got Wildflowers?(here)
It's Spring and A Gardener's Thoughts Are On Pollinators (here)
The Wildflower and The Bee (here)
A Few Good Reasons To Plant Milkweek (here)
Got Shade? You Can Have Pollinators (here)
Royalty In The Garden (here)
A Pollinator friendly Shrub (here)
Big Goings On at C and L (here)

Other bee posts you might want to read~
Count Yourself Lucky To Have Hoverflies (here)
Bumblebee Hotel (here)
Still Taking Care Of Bzzness (here)
My Sweet Embraceable You (here)

Bee clip art (here)

This post was written by Gail Eichelberger for my blog Clay and Limestone Copyright 2011.This work protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. Great photos Gail! Those bees sure do a whole lot of work for the gardener!

  2. You make such a good point about sterile flowers and souped up cultivars. We need to feed the bees so they feed us.

  3. I just love your shots of pollinators...mine are by accident when i take pics of flowers...I capture all sorts of pollinators...they share the garden with me!!

  4. Hi Gail, you have captured some incredible images of beautiful bee's! You also raised a great point regarding hybrid flowers that add no value to a bee and butterfly garden. Keep raising awareness about pesticides! Great Post!

  5. You really capture some of the best bee photographs. Love the one with the pollen stuck all over the bee's body. I can barely catch a bee in the photo frame before it flies off.

  6. Sweet series of bee photos Gail. Love those little workers.

  7. Great shots of the bees. Lovely flowers--thanks to the pollinators.

  8. I really love that first photo, Gail. Being face to face with a bee is an awesome thing. Great post!

  9. Good stuff and great shots !
    You sure been buzzy I mean busy.ha

  10. Great post Gail. I enjoy each one.
    Still like to watch our little bumbles. Got really hooked when I petted a sleeping one.

  11. Gail,

    You (and your photos) make me smile.

    Thank you for this.

    A pocketful of joys to you,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  12. I have a friend who sprays her yard (no garden at her house) weekly to eliminate bees and spiders. Can you imagine? Blasphemous!

  13. Your photographs are incredible! The clarity and the detail on the wings is amazing. What kind of lens do you use, if you don't mind my asking?

    Some neighbors have an apiary and their bees regularly visit our gardens. Because we also have a koi pond and our property abuts a conservation area, we use absolutely no chemicals in our gardens. We treat our gardens with herbal and biological treatments that are documented safe for fish and bees.

  14. Wonderful captures of wondrous business. I love the bees that "guard" my lamb ears and catmint. Their maneuverability amazes me!

  15. This was the most fun biology lesson I've ever had! What beautiful photos of the bees--I swear your photography just gets better and better, Gail. You can tell just how much you love your models.

    I've been intrigued by 'Senorita Rosalita' just because of the name--a favorite uncle of mine used to call me that in jest:) But with so many volunteer cleomes coming up here, I just couldn't justify adding this one. Now I feel even better about passing it up--my volunteers are the ones the bees and other pollinators love.

  16. Beautiful shots of the bees! I often think of you and this series of posts when I watch the bees in the garden.

  17. Absolutely remarkable photos. Love the pollen covered ones especially.

  18. What a wonderful post!
    Thanks, Lisa

  19. I love the first shot. Bee tongues are so fascinating, it's like having a built in straw. Unfortunately, our summer nectar isn't flowing like it should, and our pollen keeps getting washed off in the rain! Crazy California weather. Hopefully the shine will shine for a while so our bees can venture out from the hive!

  20. Super photos of the bees and they are so essential to us the gardeners but also to the farmers to pollinate their crops. I'm glad the message is spreading among gardeners to encourage bees and butterflies into gardens as the countryside is a pretty sterile place at the moment. Must do all we can for them.

  21. oh such lovely pictures! I'm a big bee fan too, and I'm gradually transforming a tiny suburban garden into a flower-filled insect haven in Melbourne, Australia: http://flightlessboyds.blogspot.com/2011/01/this-is-why-i-love-gardening.html

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful gardening adventures!

  22. Great lesson Gail and exquisitely illustrated! I love how you often end with asking all to pledge not to use pesticides in their gardens. I wish we would also all promise to only buy organic foods. To know the practices of farms and support those that grow mindfully . . . mindful of all children, air, earth, waterways and pollinators too. I love this post! ;>)

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"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson