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Microscopy -Pollen

Honey bees gather significant quantities of pollen to feed their young, the pollen itself is fascinating on a microscopic level.This provides an overview of pollen preparation and its identification.

Firstly, I took a pollen load that had dropped onto the varroa floor and made up a stained slide. Using the pollens size, colour and shape, and a number of reference pictures of pollen, I think the pollen was from Ivy.

Making pollen slides
Making pollen microscope slides is easy is you have some basic equipment. They are prepared by placing the pollen onto a wetted (with water) slide and gently heated on a USB cup warmer. Once dry, a small amount o
f  Glycerin Jelly containing Basic Fuchsin is added which is then heated again on the cup warmer until the glycerin has melted (approx. 50C). A glass cover slip is gently lowered onto the slide and the complete slide is allowed to cool. Using some of the 'wife's' clear nail varnish around the edge of the cover slip seals the slide permanently. The pollen is then viewed under the microscope typically at x400. The pollen is stained pink/red by the Glycerin Jelly containing Basic Fuchsin.

   amaryllis flower pic  amaryllis pollen  full pic  amaryllis pollen pic
The above pictures show a Amaryllis flower and  the corresponding pollen at magnified at x400
(center picture).

The pollen is approx. 150m is size, and can be seen has a rather 'rough' surface.

I have a growing collection of pollen slides made from flowers, also as previously mentioned, some pollen can be recovered directly from the bees.

       primrose pic   primrose pollen pic  small primrose pollen
The above pictures show a primrose flower and  the corresponding pollen at magnified at x400 (center picture).
The pollen is approx. 20m is size, and can be seen has a 'lines' on the surface.

In the two examples shown above, the center pictures are at the same scale. The pictures are directly taking via the eyepiece with a cheap USB camera.

Pollen Identification
Once the slide has been made, closer inspection by suing the microscope allows the unique features of the pollen to be recorded. These features are then matched to 'library' samples on the internet or in reference books.

Internet sites I have found to be useful are as follows:-

This site allows searching on approximately 700 different types of pollen using the scientific name, and pollen size.

Pollen Image Library at Cambridge University Botanic Garden
A cached copy of the site is available by following the two links below.  Both links open in a new window.
Search by alphabetical list, and by pollen size.

A useful site to view a variety of pollen from Barro Colorado Island is available at the following link
This contains 97 plates containing pictures and botanical names

Pollen and Pores of Barro Colorado Island

The final site is linked to below, this site has been designed by the Institute of Botany, University Vienna

PalDat - Palynological Database

Books on Pollen Identification
If you are interested in identifying pollen or want to prepare pollen slides, two books that I would recommend are given below. Both provide numerous drawings to help identify the pollen grains.

The first book contains a wealth of information on pollen grains, preparation, and gives a number of identification features, tables and pictures.
Pollen Identification for Beekeepers by Rex Sawyer
Also, to accompany this book, there is a CD with a spreadsheet linked to pollen pictures.

The second book contains a number of drawings of pollen grains.
     The Pollen Grain Drawings of Dorothy Hodges.