Home Farming in Eldorado

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Pollen Study

In order to determine the plants that my bees visited at different times during the flowering season I collected data on the plants that bloomed at Eldorado Windy Farm and those that bloomed in the surrounding area of the Eldorado neighborhood within a one-half mile radius of the hives. Below is a listing of those plants:

Listings of Blooming Plants

Eldorado Windy Farm Plants

Wild Plants Booming in Eldorado

Eldorado Windy Farm Plants Blooming Table

Wild Plants in Eldorado Blooming Table

Pictures of Blooming Plants by Season

Plants Blooming at Eldorado Windy Farm

Wild Plants Booming in Eldorado

The Setting:

My wife Susan and I moved to the Eldorado at Santa Fe subdivision in 2001. Our house was built in 1993 on a 1.43 acre suburban lot. The previous owners were gardeners and had built a walled flower garden in the rear of the house, planted some fruit trees on the west side of the house and established foundation planting on all sides including plants along the driveway leading up to the house. They also installed systems around the house to channel runoff from the roof into the various gardening areas.
We call our homesite Eldorado Windy Farm. The subdivision of Eldorado at Santa Fe and is located in the high plains at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range (the southern end of the Rocky Mountains) approximately 12 miles southeast of the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico off of US Highway 285 where it turns south from I-25 North. The lot is approximately 7,000 ft. above sea level. The natural vegetation in the area consists mainly of pinion pine, one-seeded junipers, cholla, various grasses, annuals and perennials. The soil is alkaline red adobe clay covered with about six inches or so of caliche. Annual rainfall averages 12 inches per year, however in years of drought the amount precipitation is much less. We use both catchment water and household water from the Eldorado Area Water & Sanitation District (EAWSD) to water our garden plants.
The suburban farm where we raise many different types of plants consists of a house with foundation planting, a walled flower garden,a garden annex, a pond garden, a vegetable garden, a lavender garden, a fruit tree orchard and a bee yard (apiary). The bee yard consists of five top bar hives.

The Research Questions and Methodology:

In order to answer the research questions data must be collected and materials analyzed:

1. From which flowering plants in the immediate area of my home are my honeybees collecting nectar and pollen to make their honey?
A survey of flowering plants was made from a one-half mile radius surrounding the bee hives. Both scientific and common name identification was accomplished through various plant identification guides. Since honey bees have been know to forage up to 5-6 miles from their hives to find good nectar and pollen sources, I was unable to survey all of their foraging territory and therefore limited the study to a one-half mile radius of their hives. The homogeneity of the Eldorado area makes this distance acceptable. A data chart showing identification of the plants was kept indicating the months of flowering and the observed desirability for the bees.

2. What flowering plants do the bees prefer during each part of the flowering season?
After surveying the different types of flowering plants in both the one-half mile area around the farm and the plants on my property, special attention was paid to the number and frequency of bees visiting each of the different kinds of flowering plants beginning in the month of March through the end of October. Special notice was taken to record whether the flowers were not visited, moderately visited or highly visited by the bees. A data chart indicating the plants and the frequency of visitation by the bees was kept.

Pollen was collected from the various flowering plants throughout the flowering season and pollen samples were taken from honeycombs in the bee hives at periodic intervals. Slides of the pollen samples were made and observed under 400X magnification using a digital USB ProscopeHR microscope. A library of digital samples of pollen collected from both the plants and from the hives was retained for future reference and comparisons. Additional digital photos were taken of the identified plants in the study. These can be accessed through each of the spreadsheets listed in the Listings of Blooming Plants above.

Preparation of pollen slides:

For pollen from the flowers:

1. Label each slide with the name of the plant from which the pollen was extracted. Place the flower above a microscope slide and gently knock the the pollen from the anthers using a small pick. Add a couple of drops of isopropyl alcohol (IPA) to remove the waxy surface from the pollen grains. Leave for 10 minutes on a hot plate (I use our electric kitchen stove top).

2. Place a drop of warmed liquid glycerine that has been mixed with Safranin O stain (I use a boiling water bath to warm the glycerine/stain solution) on the pollen on the slide. Slowly lower a coverslip onto the slide at a slight tilt to minimize the inclusion of air bubbles.

3. Leave the slide on the hotplate for another 10 min. to allow the stain to penetrate the pollen grains. Remove the slide from the hotplate and view with a microscope. (I use a USB ProscopeHR with a 400X lens attached.)

For pollen from the bee hives:

I use the above procedure, but instead of extracting the pollen from the flower I place a small piece of pollen extracted from a hive on the slide and stir it with the IPA solution to break up the larger pieces.


Collecting the pollen from the flowers is not a difficult process. I have found that if the fresh flowers are left in the house for a day to dry, more pollen can be obtained. I collected the pollen from the bee hives when I checked them for the overall condition of the bees at two week intervals. I extracted a pollen pellet from the comb using a small curved tool and placed it into a plastic bag.

I found that each pollen pellet was usually made up of only one kind of pollen. For those samples that have more than one type of pollen, the pollen is usually in layers in the cell in the comb.

Late winter/early spring season (December 21 - March 20):

The bees began to go out of their hive in late February on days when the temperature was above 50 degrees. The wind didn't seem to bother them. The only plants blooming in Eldorado were the Siberian elm and One-seeded juniper. During the early part of March the bees were seen bringing back loads of pollen in their pollen sacs. They were not seen visiting any of the garden plants except the small white and grape hyacinth. All of the fruit trees began to flower in late March and early April. The bees were especially interested in visiting the apricot, various peaches. By mid-April all of the fruit trees had bloomed. At this time there was still no large blooming of wild plants. Mostly plants and trees in surrounding flower gardens.

Late spring/summer season (March 21- August 31):

The largest variety of plants bloomed between May and August. Providing pollen and nectar for the bees. The plants most visited were the various salvias, catmint, lavender, oregano, honeysuckle, various penstemon, lamb's ear, cholla, and Russian sage.

Summer/fall season (September 1 - October 31):

This season was the last one for the bees to collect nectar and pollen. They were especially interested in the Maximilian sunflowers and chamisa, Both of these plants provided lots of pollen for them to harvest.


Concerning fruit trees, honeybees seem to like apricot flowers the best and do not seem to visit pear flowers at all although the flowers are visited by other pollinators (small wild bees, flys and butterflies.) Observing their stamens under the microscope, it can be seen that they are held high above the flower and are not close together. They didn't seem to have lots of pollen in the center of the flower like many of the other fruit trees did. Honeybees collected lots of pollen from apple tree flowers as indicated by the fullness of their pollen sacs while they were visiting. The bees also liked sour cherries and plums, probably for the nectar since their pollen sacs were not filled after visiting these flowers.

Throughout the blooming season I discovered that the majority of wild plants blooming in Eldorado are found beside the roads and walking paths where they get additional water from drainage or run-off. Very few plants other than grasses, pinion pines, cholla and one-seeded juniper grow in the other expanses and greenbelts.


1. Since I can only view the pollen grains at 400X I cannot determine all of the characteristics of each one. I can tell the general shape of the pollen and am able to accurately determine the size of the pollen grain for comparison with the pollen that I have collected.

2. By collecting the hive pollen from various parts of the hive, it is impossible to tell when the pollen was brought into it or what percentage of the total pollen in the hive is from one plant or another. Pollen should be collected on the bees as they enter the hive.


To see photo details of pollen collected from the plants go to Plant Pollen Images

To see photo details of pollen collected from the plants go to Hive Pollen Images


1. The bees major source of pollen/nectar in the spring seem to be the fruit trees. During the remainder of the year they mostly visited garden plants either from the flower garden or from the vegetable garden. There were reports from neighboring gardeners of the same phenomenon..

2. Since there are very few wild plants growing in Eldorado throughout the year, I believe that without the resident's gardens the bees would not have enough food sources to sustain them from their emergence from the hive in late February until the cold temperatures in late October. I don't believe that they would be able to collect enough stores to live though the winter from November through March.


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Erdtman, G. (1943). An introduction to pollen analysis. Waltham, Mass: Chronica Botanica Co.
Faegri, K. & Iversen, J. (1966). Textbook of pollen analysis. 2nd ed. New York: Hafner Publishing Co.
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Kapp, R., Davis, O. & King, J. (2000) Guide to Pollen and spores, 2nd ed. The American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists (AASP).
Lovell, J. H. (1926). Honey plants of North America (north of Mexico). Medina, Ohio: The A.I. Root Co.
McGregor, S. (1976). Insect Pollination of Cultivated Crop Plans. Agriculture Handbook No. 496. Washington D. C.: Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
Martin, W. & Hutchins, C. (1988). Fall wild flowers of New Mexico. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press.
Mid-Ulster Beekeepers Association. Peparing pollen slides. http://mubka.com/Pollen.aspx
Sawyer, R. (2006). Pollen Identification for Beekeepers. Carduff, U.K.:University College Press.

Internet Sites

Pollen Images Pollen Grain Images More Pollen Bee Flowers Pollen Images

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