The Blog
Corbicula and other exciting buzz words.

Bees are so adorable that we put their barf on our toast in the morning.  I was recently photographing the busy bees working on the native fall-blooming New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) in front of our building and I said to my colleague, “Look, they are wearing pollen pants.”

And then she made me blog about it.

See the pollen pants?

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You might be surprised to find out that the scientific community does not recognize the term pollen pants.  It’s actually called a “pollen basket” or the corbicula.

The corbicula is a smooth, shiny spot on the tibia of the rear legs that is surrounded by a fringe of bristly hair forming a kind-of basket. As the bee visits blooming flowers they continually move the pollen that has accumulated on their head, forelimbs and body back toward the rear legs where it is combed, packed, pressed and transferred to the corbicula. That’s when it looks like they are wearing the pollen pants. It can take up to 8 minutes to collect a pair of pants large enough to travel back to the hive with a full load of compacted pollen, also known as “bee bread.”

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Inside the hive they eat and regurgitate pollen until they get it to the exact consistency that they want, and they store it in the comb. During the months when flowers and pollen is scarce, like early spring and winter—the bees feed on the honey they have stored. That’s why when beekeepers collect honey from a beehive for human consumption, they always leave enough honey for the girls to eat.

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Did you know that all of the worker bees that you see out an about collecting pollen are female?  Only a few males exist in each colony to fertilize eggs and then in the winter they are left outside to die.  That’s why if you put your ear up to a beehive in the winter, you will hear this:

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That’s just science.