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The Pollinator Bulletin Board: Flowers

From the BeeMonitoring listserv:

From Sam Droege, 9 January, 2011:

This may be of interest to a number of you working with pollination/ bee-host dynamics.


Their FAQ is copied below:

What is FReD?
FReD stands for the Floral REflectance Database. It is a database containing the spectral reflectances of many species of flower. A spectrophotometer is used to acquire these measurements. This works by shining a light on to the sample, and the proportion of light reflected back at the different wavelengths is measured.

Is there a charge for accessing FReD?
No. FReD is open-access and free for anyone to use.

How is FReD put together?
The FReD database is a MySQL database. The website brings you an interface to access the database which was developed on PHP 5 with its GDLib. some JavaScript, bringing you the implementation of AJAX for easier access to searches.

What are the hardware/software requirements to run FReD?
FReD has been extensively tested on Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape throughout its development and is fully compatible with these. Opera and Safari users will experience problems with the hexSearch facility.

We recommend visitors use Mozilla Firefox to access this site. It can be downloaded for free from the Mozilla homepage.

How many samples are there in the database?
There is reflectance data for over 2000 individual samples in the database. Other entries will be added as measurements from more flowers are gathered and published.

Who developed FReD?
FReD was developed by research students at Queen Mary, University of London in the UK, in collaboration with researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

What features does FReD contain?

* Simple Search - enter a keyword or combine your keyword with boolean expressions to search for records
* Advanced Search - select specific attributes/features with keywords to search for records
* hexSearch - select a region on the Colour Hexagon and search for flower records with hexagon coordinates in that region (not available for Safari or Opera users)
* Individual Colour Hexagon - you can view an individual colour hexagon diagram plotted for each flower record that has spectral reflectance data available. The excitation values are calculated and displayed alongside this.
* Individual Reflectance Graph - you can view a reflectance graph for each flower record available on the database. Simply click on the record that you are interested in.
* View all returned records on one Colour Hexagon Graph - you can view a single Colour Hexagon model with all returned records plotted on this. It will also produce some statistics of the most common keywords appearing in the results.

From “hennetjie”, 25 January, 2011:

a beekeeper asked the following on a beekeeping list and I wondered if any of you know something more about the specific qualities of radish flowers / pollen or bees getting drunk on them (in the Western Cape, South Africa):

" I have noticed some thing interesting by me, and don't know what to make of it. In my backyard I have 3 small swarms of bees. Have planted a patch of radish a wile ago, witch went into flowering. Not thinking much about it, because it is food for the bees. Now this is were it gets interesting. I have noticed now for a few days, when the bees have visited the flowers, that they cannot fly afterwards. Bees seems to be disorientated ( drunk) , then walk in a general direction to the hives,about 6 meters, then after about an hour or so,get it right to fly again(drunk-drunk) into the hive. Found the bees walking only a meter or so around the radish, and in the direction of the hives. Not in all directions, just from the radish to the hives. By nightfall, most of the bees have found the hives. Pollination Beeks,any one out there ,that have done pollination on radish for seed harvesting? Anyone ever experience something like that? Have tilt the ground over this afternoon to get rid of the flowers. I have studied this behavior now for 3 to 4 days, every day the same story. Any one with any ideas?"

I have tried looking up more on the internet and only came across one similar story about angelica and bees getting drunk ? poisoned? Half-poisoned? Yet we eat angelica flowers. http://stephenlynbales.blogspot.com/2009/08/drunk-bee.html

I have now read that radishes are used in many home remedies across the world, and that wild radish flowers are toxic (Australia) to some animals, yet a mix of fresh plant material containing up to 60% radish seeds in feed, etc. do them no harm. (Lost the link again, sorry), so it must have some powerful properties.

Does anyone know of nectar fermenting in such flowers? I would appreciate any information (will also pass it on, if I may) in this regard.

Nature is so fascinating. And bees in particular.

From Doug Yanega, 25 January, 2011:

There is some information at


From Maria Van Dyke, 25 January, 2011:

I have experienced this with Glacier Lilies up in the rockies. The bees seem to search it out. Our conclusion was fermented nectar...it happens! My guess is that it doesn't necessarily have to do with toxic chemicals and more to do with fermentation. maria

From Doug Yanega, 25 January, 2011:

fermentation = ethanol production (usually - I doubt lactic acid is produced in fermenting nectar)
ethanol = toxic chemical

or is ethanol not considered toxic? If frat parties are any indication, I think we can say otherwise.

From: Peter Bernhardt, 26 January, 2011:

I originally sent a private message back to Henn but everyone might appreciate a moment of clarification on naughty nectar contents.

1) Yes, fermentation occurs in the nectars of many plants because pollinators introduce microbes, of all sorts, to the medium or air-borne spores land on gushing droplets. Back in the late 20;s for example, there was a report in a Western Australian natural history magazine of Banksia flowering cobs turning greenish and slimy due to invasion by Cyanobacteria (blue green algae). Our own Dr. Kevan is something of an authority on yeasts in milkweed (Asclepias) nectar. Yeast activity actually lowers the ability of the stigma apertures to receive and process pollen causing sterility.

2) Has anyone looked at Free's "Insect Pollination of Crops" (1970) to see if there are any older references to radish nectar's effect on honeybees?

3) In contrast, there are some cases in which molecules made by the plant find their way into nectar. Please consider reading the classic papers of the late, Irene Baker. Although she specialized on amino acid and sugar identification in nectar I believe she detected alkaloids in the nectar of pumpkins.

4) Let's all remember that honeybees are not native to North America and can have a hard time if they persist in feeding on nectar from some members of the endemic flora. Yes, they gobble the nectars of native ericoids (Kalmia, Rhododendron etc.) without effect although their honey makes us sick but what happens during a drought year when honeybees take nectar from death camas (Zygagenus)? Please see chapter 7 in Bernhardt, P. (1993) Natural Affairs: A Botanist Looks at Attachments Between Plants and People, Villard Books, N.Y.

5) Likewise, radish is not native to North America or South Africa.

From Charles Guevara, 26 January, 2011:

Hello , hennetjie, I had various bee ( never noticed wasps being so effected, yet plenty of wasps also visited the flowers) species which stayed in place on wild pepermint plants very near the purple flowers. You could gently nudge these lethargic bees with your finger...they would move a little, but not fly away. This especially occurred with bumble bee species. This was all summer, NY/NJ border region...noticed this for several summers.

The backgarden wild pepermint plants attracted all sorts of wasps, bees, and a few types of flies. Between the purple flowers of the wild pepermint plants, and the six to seven foot tall fennel plants in flower, my back garden was a very busy airport for pollinators.

The lethargic bees would eventually leave the garden...it only occurred with the purple wild pepermint flowers in my NY/NJ border region garden.

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