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What was that brief pollen storm that just hit the Gulf Coast all about? It was the commencement of the annual reproductive cycle of a certain member of the local plant community - the Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana). Their small, feathery, strand-like flowers, called “catkins,” were accumulating loads of pollen and the sudden winds that ushered in April caused them to release and spew yellow-green clouds of the stuff all over the landscape. And that’s just the Live Oaks; a bunch of other plants kick off the summer growing season by making like a high school biology lesson – flowers make pollen for pistils to make seeds and any attendant fruits, nuts and vegetables. These are the products of this annual binge and this behavior goes on throughout the growing season as different plants take their turn.

The “pollen du jour" (pollen of the day) forms up on the lazy currents of Bayou Liberty.




Those unfortunates who are allergic to pollen can easily see why if they find a scanning-electron microscopic image of the tiny, individual grains. They look like they would be evil to sensitive nasal membranes by being all spiky and prickly in appearance. Apparently the only relief, besides antihistamines, decongestants and allergy immunotherapy, is experimentation by moving to other parts of the country to find out whether the vexing pollen grains are not produced in sufficient quantities by the local vegetation. 

Honeybees are famous for wallowing in pollen and don’t appear to be allergic to it at all. They get it all over their fur and dribble it in the honey they make which is actually “bee spit” produced with the nectar they ingest. The worker bees gather this pollen material, also known as “bee bread” and pack it into the bottom of the wax cells of the honey comb with their heads, then the Queen Mother comes along and inserts an egg. The bambino bee then has something to snack on before hatching and being put to work.

Bee keepers (apiculturalists) have noticed the pollen and nectar-collecting bees returning to the hive from the fields have little pollen “saddlebags” they’ve packed onto their hips with some of their sweet bee spit. These “bee pollen” granules happen to be cherished by health food nuts to whom the keepers cater by employing a very devious strategy. They string a small, thin wire just above the entrance slot to the wooden hive and when the bee tries to step over it the wire strips the pollen packet from the unwitting bee. Before he can do anything about it, this packet falls down a chute and into a collection jar fastened below. Rather than getting all glum and disgusted at being cheated and wasting his morning, the bee goes on inside, upchucks the nectar he’s collected and goes back to work out in the fields and stays as busy as a...well you know.

Last modified on Saturday, 17 October 2015 16:42

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