Ah, ZZ-Top summed it so nicely. Have you ever noticed that some of the bees you see flying around have these orange or yellow clumps on their hind legs? If you haven’t, they look like this.
No, this bee is not wearing small bee weights. That orange mass on her leg is pollen that she has gathered from flowers. Female bees provision their offspring with pollen (mixed with a little nectar), which means they have to visit numerous flowers to gather enough pollen for each offspring. It would be incredibly inefficient for them to have to travel back to their nest after visiting each flower. Can you imagine having to go home to drop off each item that you buy at the grocery store? What a pain in the butt it would be to go shopping. Well, these ladies feel the same way. So, to be more efficient female bees have special hairs called scopae for holding and transporting pollen. It’s like a shopping cart. Although pollen tends to stick on various parts of a bees fuzzy body, the scopae are the brushes that are used to transport pollen to the nest. Female bees can’t get some of the pollen that gets stuck onto their body, so when they visit a flower and gather pollen they pack it into the scopae and go onto the next flower. The pollen that sticks onto various parts may rub off on another flowers stigma and pollinate that flower.
Only female bees have scopae…an exception are parasitic female bees who do not have these hairs since they steal food from other female bees. Most female bees have the scopae on their hind legs.
Check out these furry drumsticks…
Oh yeah, work those legs!
This bumblebee has been working hard. Check out the pollen loads on her legs.
Now that spring is around the corner, go out and check out the bees and look at their hind legs. If you see large pollen loads like these, you know she has been working hard!