Earlier this summer when I started putting the supers onto two of my hives, our beekeeper friend, Michel, told me that once the sunflowers opened across the road from us, the honey bees would fill one super in just one week. Well, the sunflowers have certainly opened across the little road to our hamlet, only a few metres away from our four hives.
So, during the warm mornings, Amelia and I eagerly went in search of the bees across the road.
Amelia walked right through the field but only found a few bumble bees and there were very few honey bees on the sunflowers.
What I have now discovered is that Michel was right and the honey bees did indeed collect loads of pollen and nectar from the sunflowers – however, the emphasis is on the past tense.
The disc florets in the centre of sunflowers have both male and female parts and each female part has a single ovary that develops into a seed. It appears that the new varieties of seeds planted near us now are self fertilising type, thus eliminating the need for bees to fertilise the plant. More importantly, these new varieties have a much longer neck to the style and as the nectaries are situated just above the ovaries, this makes it difficult for the honey bees to collect the nectar. So, although the sunflower field does look very pretty across our land, it does very little good for our bees.
On my visit next day, however, I did see a much pollen smothered bee homing in towards a sunflower.
She did look so pretty and I was fascinated to watch her rolling the little reddish ball of pollen on her hind legs. I managed to take a short video clip of her. If you would like to see it, please click here.
Nevertheless, we are lucky that there are a variety of flowers around us, as the supers we put on two of our hives look well on the way to being filled.
So after all there was a happy ending despite the lack of nectar for our honey bees. – Kourosh