Defining honeybee pollen sources in Appalachia, July through October

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2017: $14,968.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2019
Grant Recipient: Honey Glen, LLC
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:


  • Animals: bees
  • Animal Products: Pollen


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: pollinator habitat
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    Honey Bee nutrition and destruction of habitat is emerging as a top concern for the nation’s pollinators. Summer and fall pollen sources are especially crucial for winter survival. This project builds on previous efforts to  understand the diversity involved in the nutritional income of honeybees, that is, their pollen intake. In 2015, for the first time, collaborating beekeepers in West Virginia’s diverse natural ecosystem collected pollen samples according to protocol. March through June samples were analyzed to identify the pollen types present (FNE15-831). Previous suppositions regarding bee pollen sources were either affirmed or dispelled, and some
    plants were discovered to be important to honey bees that were previously not recognized. Changes in forage could be compared from year to year and from location to location. This project will analyze another 59 selected samples from the second half of the year (July through October) so that for the first time, a verifiable, fact-based, whole-year picture of pollen foraging can be formed. Because references do not exist or are of poor quality for some important fall pollen types common in the northeast, slides of pollen from these plants will be created to aid with pollen grain identification.

    This study will lay a foundation for ascertaining the nutritional status of pollinators through the active season so that beekeepers, governments, bioengineers, and others can optimize pollinator health and reduce bee colony losses. The results will be spread throughout the state and neighboring states via beekeeping networks and the internet.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of this project is to provide for the first time, in an easy-to-understand format, a set of fact-based charts
    describing the relative abundance of each plant type in its contribution of pollen to honey bees during the summer and fall months (July-October) in Appalachia as bees and beekeepers prepare for winter. We will use pollen trapped at hive entrances according to a standardized protocol, pollen treatment with acetolysis, and microscopic examination of a minimum of 200 random pollen grains per sample to answer the following questions:

    • What pollen types are the bees collecting?
    • What is the percentage of each type at each time period?
    • When are the bees bringing in the highest and lowest quantities?
    • How much does it change from one location to the next?
    • How much does it change from one year to the next?
    • Which wild plants are most valuable to honey bee nutrition and health?
    • What gaps in natural honey bee forage need to be filled?
    • Are there preferable bloom periods for harvesting pollen for marketing or for supplemental honey bee feed  withoutjeopardizing colony health?

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.