Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coreopsis in Bloom

Throughout the spring, summer, and fall there is a progression of yellow wildflowers. Coming into bloom now is tickseed coreopsis, a member of the important bee plant family, the composites. Tickseed coreopsis has bright yellow petals surrounding a reddish-brown center. The composites are the sunflowers. The composites are among the largest families of flowering plants, making up one tenth of the world’s plant species. There are 25 thousand composites, including dandelion, chicory, lettuce, and chrysanthemum. They contribute both nectar and pollen to the honey bees. It seems that the honey bees in the Arkansas Delta use coreopsis primarily as a source of pollen. A diverse number of pollen sources are important for good honey bee nutrition. Click on the photo to see the honey bee with pollen covering its legs and hairy body. The bee will rake the pollen from its body, mix it with some honey from her honey gut, and pack it on her pollen baskets on her hind legs. She will then be ready to fly back to her hive.

There will not be another yellow flower in place in great numbers until the coreopsis has completed its colorful showing. Not only have the flowering plants evolved with attracting schemes of color, shape, infrared nectar guides, fragrance, and taste for the pollinators, they also have a time-sharing scheme to help insure their pollination. By not competing with other yellow flowers at this time of year, the coreopsis helps insure its pollination and seed production for next year’s plants. The honey bees and flowering plants have always benefited each other.

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