Skip to content

Rosemary plants grow well here in Arizona.

This time of year, the shrubs are covered with delicate light blue or purplish flowers.

The honey bees visit the flowers in a constant stream of activity.

After watching the bees for a few minutes, you begin to notice the bees have a light-colored dusting of pollen on the back of their head and thorax.

It looks like they've been sprinkled with wheat flour.

Where is it coming from?

To answer that question, check out the structure of the rosemary flower up close. See those "antlers" sticking out of the top of the flower? The ones with the deep purple pads on the ends are the stamens. The purple pads are the anthers, where the pollen is released.

When the honey bee sticks her tongue deep into the throat of the rosemary flower to suck up the nectar at it's base, the stamen catches her on the back of her head and thorax. Like a pad full of powder, the anther dusts her with pollen.

Note:  the photographs are a bit blurry because the honey bees were visiting each flower for only seconds at time.

Have you ever seen a flower dust pollen onto a honey bee?

Honey bees do different jobs as they get older. The young bees take care of the brood, and the older bees go out and forage or gather food.

In the fall, the foraging bees don't look too bad.

honey-bee-sunflowerhoney-bee-pollen-basket-251They are still fuzzy and their wings are in good shape.

Now contrast that to some honey bees out foraging this week.

Can you see the dark patch on the back of the thorax? This bee has lost some of her hair.

The quality of this photo isn't the best, but can you see how ragged the edges of this honey bee's wings are?

These honey bees have been in the nest all winter, probably working hard to keep it warm. They are worn out.

Have you ever spotted a honey bee that was worse for wear?