Strung out on pollen
Now here is something you don’t see every day. This amazing photo taken by beekeeper Morris Ostrofsky of southern Oregon shows a honey bee carrying a thread of evening primrose pollen.
The genus Oenothera contains about 145 species of flowering plants, many of which have pollen grains that are strung together by viscin threads. Viscin is a clear, tasteless, sticky substance made from sap. The grains of pollen are loosely joined in wispy, cobweb-like strands which stick to visiting pollinators.
Some botanists theorize that plants evolved this complex structure so the pollen would stick onto insects that aren’t necessarily designed to carry pollen—nearly hairless creatures such as beetles and moths.
Other plants in the family Onagraceae also have viscin threads, although some—like those from fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium—are too small to see without magnification.
Thanks, Morris. I don’t see how you did it.
Update: Morris sent us some more information.
The variety of primrose is Hooker’s primrose. Perennial and self seeds readily. I found it while on a bike ride some years ago. One of the really amazing things about this plant can be seen around sunset. Just as the sun goes down the ripe flower buds open at an astonishing speed. They go from being completely closed to fully open in a mater of two to three minutes! They have entertained many garden visitors. That’s not all.
This grand opening is often followed quickly by the occasional Sphinx moth getting a snack and pollinating also. The following morning when it gets warm and light enough for the bees to fly the flowers are then visited by honey bees some of which carry long threads of pollen back to the hives. When they arrive on the landing board it is quite obvious which plants those bees have been pollinating. As it warms up further the flowers collapse never to repeat this choreographed dance again. Although the flowers live for less than a day there are many more to take center stage every day until the first frosts.