I recently got into a discussion with a reader—Jess from Olympia—about the white pollen I’ve been seeing on my bees. She did some research and came up with a couple possible sources for this snow-white pollen: white chicory or field bindweed. Further investigation showed that white chicory is rare and blue chicory has yellow pollen—so bindweed must be the answer. It just so happens that there is plenty of field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) near where I live.
The plant is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced to North America during colonial times. It was first recorded in Virginia in 1739.
As is turns out field bindweed—also known as morning glory—is a Class-C noxious weed in Washington. That designation is for weeds that are of special interest to the agricultural industry, and the counties may enforce control if it is beneficial for the county to do so.
Bindweed is particularly problematic in field crops such as cereal grains, beans, and potatoes because the long viney stems get entangled with harvesting equipment, may cause the crop to lodge (fall over), and can host several potato viruses. The flowers are pollinated by bees, moths, and butterflies.
The plants have a long flowering period that lasts from June until first frost, so they make reliable bee forage especially in hot, dry weather. The flowers I saw were attracting bumble bees that nestled right into the twisty, funnel-shaped flowers.
According to the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, bindweed is a “very valuable honey plant” and “produces a surplus of white honey.”