91 Pierre Lau – The Everything-You-Wanted-To-Know-About-Pollen Episode


Speaker 1: From the Oregon State University Extension Service, this is Pollination, a podcast that tells the stories of researchers, land managers, and concerned citizens making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators. I'm your host, Dr. Adoni Melopoulos, assistant professor in pollinator health in the Department of Horticulture. A couple of weeks ago, we had a fabulous episode with Dr. Priya Chakrabarti from Oregon State University talking about bee nutrition, and it really singled out the importance of pollen to the development of bees. And I thought this was a great opportunity to reach out to Pierre Lau to talk more about pollen. Now, Pierre is a PhD candidate at Texas A&M University. He has been really busy and already making some great strides in our knowledge and understanding of what pollen choices bees make in landscapes, particularly urban ones. So sit back, and enjoy this episode. You're going to hear all there is to know about pollen. All right. I'm really excited to welcome Pierre to Pollination. Welcome to Pollination.

Speaker 2: Well, thank you for having me. I'm very excited to be here myself. I've actually been listening to these podcasts over the past year, especially when I was preparing for my pre-lens. So it's, it's, I'm very happy and I'm honored to be here.

Speaker 1: Oh, thank you so much. I guess you should explain that. So when people are taking their Ph.D., they've got to take a set of torture test exams. Oh, yeah.

Speaker 2: So it's an exam that will test you on anything possible. Like, I mean, it's stuff that you're not necessarily studying or necessarily focused on studying. And they're going to ask those questions. The questions you do not expect. That's what you're going to get asked.

Speaker 1: That's why you're a Jedi master now. I hope so. Okay. Well, the one thing I didn't want to talk to you, but I was really excited. I've been following your work for a long time and it's real fascinating because, you know, when we talk about pollination, it's like half the title of the show. But, you know, what is pollen? Like, you know, you see it, it's this dust.

But what's actually, what happens when you look at that? Is it all the same? Like, some of it comes in different colors, but tells us about the diversity of pollen.

Speaker 2: Right. So pollen is essentially the sperm of the plant. It's what the males will produce. The pollen will have to get from one plant to another for the plant to successfully reproduce the next generation. So bees will use this pollen and for their own purposes, they want it for the nutrients. But the plant's main goal is to attract this pollen there so that it can help to transport the pollen from one plant to another to help them facilitate this reproduction. But the bees will, they kind of co-op off together.

Speaker 1: And tell me just to stop before just a second, where does the pollen come from? Like, how is it formed? Like, it comes out of this, you know, it's on the stigma. But like, how does it, do you know, can you tell us a little bit about like how pollen? How it's formed? Yeah. How it appears in the plant and all that stuff.

Speaker 2: I wish I could tell you more about how it's actually formed. I actually came from the pollen side of things. So the funny thing is when people tell me that, I'm not a botanist, I know very little about botany. So when people talk about plants, I actually think of pollen grain first and then I think of a plant. So it's completely, the way I think it's completely reversed. But.

Speaker 1: OK, so, OK, you got this pollen and just tell us what it looks like. Like, if you put it under a microscope, I think everybody's seen these markers. They're like crazy-looking things. Right.

Speaker 2: So pollen can range from like five microns in size to 150 microns, 200 microns. But most pollen grains are going to be around 20 to 40 microns. And they're going to be very tiny. And you've seen pictures of bees covered in pollen. So you can see them if they're against a background that is dark or if you have a yellow pollen grain on a dark background. Yeah.

Speaker 1: So when you I know, we sometimes see these things, they look like spiky balls or some of them look like little peas. What's what's what's pollen grain essentially? That's what's it made of? What's inside it? What's outside?

Speaker 2: Yeah. So pollen has in terms of like what is made of the structure, the outside, there's like an X sign. So there's like an outer coat, like an outer surface area. Is it hard? Is it like that? Yeah, it's more like a lipid coat. So think of it as very fatty. And that's so that the.

Speaker 1: I think about a fatty coat, I think like lard, but I see these pollen grains and they're kind of like this. So there's something on it that's not that spiky stuff. Right.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So there is the spice. So some pollen grains will come off as spiky on the surface. Some will come off like a wavy surface. Some will come off like a spider web. So there are different surface types for different. But that's not the X sign. Yeah. That's probably an X sign. That's a very surface structure of it. Okay.

Speaker 1: So it but it's made up of lipids. Yes.

Speaker 2: Okay. All right. So the outside X sign that they're composed is comprised of several parts as well. But the inside of that is where the cytoplasm is at. And that's where the main nutrients of the pollen grain are going to be, which is why lots of bees and other other animals really like this point. This is very nutritious. The whole purpose of this X sign covering the cytoplasm is because the pollen needs to move from one area to another plant. And in order to do that, as to be able to resist environmental degradation, it needs this armor and protective barrier to protect the cytoplasm.

Speaker 1: Is this going to be traveling a long ways?

Speaker 2: Yeah. So I mean, some pollens are airborne and they travel for miles and miles. Whereas, for example, pine pollen, looks like an H2O molecule. And the two hydrogens, I mean, if you think of H2O molecule, two hydrogens, they're kind of like air sacs for these pine pollen grains. So it enables and allows this pine pollen to float very long distances to disperse. And that's why the pine pollen is all over the place whenever there's a pine miles away.

Speaker 1: And you mentioned, OK, so you've got the structure and some of these structures are for like mobility, but they can, they're going to be consistent in that species so you could, I guess, identify if you had some pollen in front of you. And it would just look yellow. You would like to figure out which one it is specifically.

Speaker 2: So the fun thing about pollen and why paleology or the study of pollen is a thing is because every species of plant will produce a unique pollen grain to that species.

So we can kind of play CSI and forensics here. And when you look at the pollen that honeybees collect, you can trace it back to the plant that they were actually visiting once you by identifying and using the morphological characteristics. And this really isn't just for its application not just for honeybees. People use this in forensics. And so Dr. Brian, Dr. Ron, Brian, I texted A &M, he used to work with the FBI a lot. And he's had several cases with the FBI to help trace where a murderer came from based on the pollen spectrum.

Speaker 1: Because they might have pollen that wasn't you look at it and it's like this guy wasn't killed in Houston because he's got pollen from New York State.

Speaker 2: Yeah, exactly. So like the plants that you see in like the south or like a south of like like Texas, it's going to be completely different from the plants you see like in the Midwest. So if you're seeing a lot of, for example, Chinese tallow and then this murder case or something, then you can kind of like locate that or trace it down and point up in point to like southern regions of the US, specifically maybe like East Texas or Louisiana, those are areas where Chinese tallow is very prevalent.

Speaker 1: OK, so let's say we've got beekeepers I know listening. So you put a pollen trap and for listeners who don't know what a pollen trap maybe describe what a pollen trap is.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so there are pollen traps that can come in various shapes and sizes. But the ones I'm most familiar with are going to go on a very front entrance and these will collect about 50 to 70 percent of the pollen coming in. But you can turn it on the pollen trap and it will cover the front entrance. There's going to be a screen that will cover the front entrance of a colony. So when a pollen forager tries to get through that screen on the pollen pellet on the corbicula, again, knocked off and it will accumulate in that basket and you can just simply pull the basket out and empty that out and collect your pollen.

Speaker 1: Is there just trying to reel the way back into the colony with the pollen load and then I guess it just falls off? Yeah, it's very it's actually very sad.

Speaker 2: I just went through all that work. 30 flowers and I don't know where it went.

Speaker 2: I had it and I went in the door and it was gone. All right, so you get let's say you do the beekeeper does this, and then they get this assortment of pollen in the little basket from the trap pollen that came off the back legs. And some of them are purple and some of them are orange and some of them are yellow. How do they go about figuring out where the bees travel to? So different colors of pollen can definitely give a clue on the types of plants because frankly, I mean, we've all seen different colors of pollen coming from on the corbicula.

But it's not a completely reliable method just by looking at color or texture. A lot of times the pollen pellet itself is about 90 to 95 percent of one pollen type. But if you really want to identify what the bees were getting, you should actually process these samples and use a process called acetalysis.

Speaker 1: Acetalysis. Yeah, so this is something that we do in the lab and you should only do it in the lab because it's a very it's essentially a very strong mixture of 9 to 1 acetic and hydrogen sulfuric acid. These are very strong acids that can react very violently to water. So there have been few cases where the reaction can actually cause it to blow up in your face. And I mean, that's just messy and we don't want to we try our best to be safe in a lot of ways.

All right, so you've gone to paleontology school, you've got this thing. So why do you need all these strong chemicals Why can't you just look at the stuff and why do you need the stuff?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so we need this acetalysis to break down the pollen kit of the pollen grains. So the pollen kit? Yeah, so the pollen kit is once you remember, I think I mentioned a little bit earlier, but there's an outer covering that covers the pollen grains. So in order to actually view its morphological characteristics, you really have to break that part down to remove it so you can see the actual surface structure. You can also look at the number of apertures, number of pores, or the holes on the pollen grain itself.

Speaker 1: Oh, let me get it. Okay, I think you saw something. So when you were talking about the lipid layer, the X sign, basically looks like a ball of fat.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so when you look at unprocessed pollen on the scope, I mean, you can't actually, it's difficult to actually see the fat, but it's just going to look like a circle, like a blur circle.

Speaker 1: Okay, so you get rid of that. And this is the pollen kit. Right. Okay, you get rid of that, then you see the surface and the surface can be the thing that's all spiked in all that. Okay, gotcha. All right. Okay, so your pollen sort of floats in the water there, and it eats up the fat, I guess, or separates the lipids off.

Speaker 2: Right, so the analysis process, we pour the acids in and we actually have to let it react for a while. So we have to keep it in a heating block and then let the chemical reaction happen.

And then, yeah, it essentially eats out. So this acid mixture is very good at removing pathological matter in a sample. So people do use catalysis in other paleontological studies. So when they look at FICO matter, they also use this analysis to remove these biological pieces.

Speaker 1: Okay, okay, so then you're left with pollen that has been, is now, its kit is removed, and then you look at the surface. But then I imagine like it, to somebody who's looked at it for the first time, it's like, just like looking at native bees for the first time, there's just so much diversity, you get overwhelmed.

Speaker 2: Yeah, and I was very, very overwhelmed. So, yeah, when I started this project, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I mean, I'm extremely thankful that I had the guidance of Dr.

Von Brein is one of the leading pollen experts in the United States. But really, you just had to take everything step by step. So you can go through like diagnostic key.

So several keys are pretty good starters. But you just have to, it's like identifying a native bee or an insect. You go through one step after another after another. But before you get started, you really have to know the terminologies of the pollen, just like jargon. So it knows what it's referring to and what you should be looking for. Okay.

Speaker 1: And I imagine there were a few questions like that when you were taking your exams.

Speaker 2: You know, you'd be surprised or actually wasn't. Okay.

Speaker 1: It's probably because none of you know, your steps ahead of your committee.

Speaker 2: All those things. Okay. All right. So you've done this and all right. So now you can, you go through and you can identify the pollen. You know, I think maybe this is a good place. Let's take a quick break. I want to come back after the break and just talk about specifically how you've used this tool to answer two really interesting questions. Okay. Yeah. Sure. All right.

Speaker 1: And we are back. So we have a detailed conversation at the break. But the one thing I did, so I wanted to ask you, you've got these two applications of this method that you've used. I imagine as you go on in your graduate studies, you're going to come up with others. The first one is being able to identify what plants bees use like garden ornamental plants bees use in the landscape. Tell us a little bit about that project.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So I've worked on two main projects with pollen so far. One of them, the one you're referring to, I actually looked at the pollen pellets. So I was looking at the ties of pollen honeybee forage, pollen forages for collecting in urban and suburban environments.

Speaker 1: So what falls off their legs? They go into the urban and suburban environment, they bring pollen back, you knock it off on that trap and then you've got all these pellets.

Speaker 2: Exactly. So we work with beekeepers and researchers from four different regions of the United States. So we sampled Texas, California, Michigan, and Florida. And then we really want to see what these bees are going after in urban and suburban environments.

Yeah, we're getting this manuscript together real soon and it's going to be coming out early next year. But what we essentially found was that every season there's going to be different levels of diversity. So in the summer months for Texas and sometimes California, there was actually a lot less diversity than I expected in the times of pollen honeybees were going to bring back. And I think a lot of that can be attributed to the extremely high temperature, especially in Texas where there's nothing else blooming, everything's dried, but a few ornamental plants. In the south, the cremato is one of the most predominant plants out there. And so I saw a lot of cremato pollen, which is a really important ornamental crop, which does not produce any nectar. And so this plant will actually produce two types of pollen. One of them is specifically designed to attract bees and pollinators. And the other one is for their reproduction. So we saw a lot of, I mean, that's one of the reasons why diversity was...

Speaker 1: This is the same plant and it produces two kinds of pollen.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so it doesn't produce any nectar, but it's allowed to be able to produce two types of pollen. And they actually look different under the scope as well. They're on different stamens or different flowers. I'm frankly, I'm not too sure.

Speaker 1: Okay, so let me just reiterate this, because this is fascinating. So there are some plants out there that have pollen that is specific for dispersal. And then they know that the bees are coming, they're not for altruistic reasons. So they like to make special pollen, it's like, if you come to my flower, I'll give you like these super chunky, fat, tasty pollen. Right.

Speaker 2: That is so cool. Okay, cool. Yeah, so they don't produce any nectar and it produces 2,000 pollen. So we saw a very low diversity of other types of pollen bees are bringing back in the summer. But I mean, we just saw differences in every different region.

Speaker 1: That's fascinating because I imagine people say, oh, well, this time of year, I had lots of flowers, but really the ones that bees were choosing and voting for with their back legs.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so a lot of times when I sample these pollen pellets and beekeepers guess what their bees were forging on collecting, they'd be very surprised to what the results actually show.

And that's because I think that we are very focused on what we can see. So the flowering plants are on the floor or the shrubs, but a lot of times the bees will actually go up into shrubs and trees for their pollen, especially in the early months in the spring. A lot of they actually collect a lot of roses and also a lot of oaks and a lot of willow. So pollen pellets actually have a lot of tree pollen in them.

Speaker 1: I think that's a really good observation. I know in the Pacific Northwest, one of our after-willows, which is usually some of those willows, the flowers are a head height, but we have a big maple flow. And I think most people would not, they're so up in the canopy, that they'd never think it was a bee flower.

Speaker 2: Right, yeah. So it's just something that I mean, I was very surprised to, and I mean, I was learning everything here when I was going through this project, but this was something that I thought was very interesting.

Speaker 1: Okay, all right. So the second thing that you've more recently done is you beekeepers want to know, I mean, anybody, people remember a bunch of years ago, there was some honey that came in from China that had an antibiotic that shouldn't have been there. People were really concerned about where the honey was coming from and the source of the honey. And I guess this CSI fingerprinting tool can help us.

Speaker 2: Right, so the second main project I'm trying to wrap up right now, and it's a real Texas honey project, so we call it. The real Texas honey project.

Speaker 1: Yeah, I mean, that's so Texas. That explains exactly why. Yeah, that explains exactly why it's called that way. You know, if it was Oregon, it'd be the Oregon-friendly honey project or something like that. Yeah.

Speaker 2: But instead of looking at pollen pellet system around, I'm looking at honey, so I'm actually taking a sub-sample of honey, processing that and looking, spiking it with like-a-polling spores, which are pollen from plants that honey bees do not actually go for.

Speaker 1: Okay, so you put this in some honey at various concentrations or something.

Speaker 2: Right, so we spike our honey sample with like-a-polling spores, so we can use an equation to tell what the pollen concentration of the honey is. Okay. So in addition to identifying the pollen that the honey contains, we're actually looking at how much pollen the honey contains. Okay. So it's a quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Speaker 1: Oh, I see. Oh, so by putting these grains in that could not be found in nature, you could say, oh, well, I put 10,000 in there, and so when I counted it up, and there's the same number of pollen grains, I know there's 10,000 in there. Right.

Speaker 2: Okay, so this kind of- If I found a one-to-one ratio of like-a-polling spores to the pollen on the honey, that means if I put 10,000 pollen, like a pollen spores in there, I must have 10,000 pollen grains.

Speaker 1: Oh, so it's like a little ruler.

Speaker 2: Okay, all right, perfect. Okay. So we have to incorporate that in there, and that's going to be one way that we can actually help these beekeepers identify what their sources are coming from and whether or not the honey is being adulterated.

So we went back to the question of why we want to do this study. A lot of times there is no truth. Honey is one of the top 10 adulterated products in the United States that you can get in a grocery store. So unfortunately, a lot of times what you're buying is not what you're actually paying to get.

So there is no truth in labeling honey in the United States, people can put whatever they want on the label so they can say that their honey is raw, local, organic, unfiltered, and any buzz to increase the marketability of honey. You can do that. Wildflower.

Yeah, yeah. So what the beekeepers in Texas are really interested in doing is increasing the marketability of Texas honey by helping people, educating the people, and educating the public on what is actually contained in Texas honey in terms of the plants that bees are foraging from antitemical spectrum.

Speaker 1: Okay, so the idea would be that you get all these samples in from around the state, and you would do this acid olfactory system that's looking at the pollen grains. Because I guess, well, here's the question. I thought we were all taught that pollen and honey are two separate things. Now you're telling me there's pollen in the honey?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so it is in a way two separate things. Actually, bees, and pollen foragers collecting pollen from plants, are going to be collecting pollen from completely different plants than the nectar foragers collecting from nectar from their plants.

All right, so they're gonna be coming from two different sources. When the nectar foragers are collecting nectar to convert to honey, a lot of times they're going to bring in some pollen as well. So pollen will help us tell what type of plants that the honey is coming from.

Speaker 1: So if a bee goes to like a sunflower, and they're getting nectar, they're gonna pick up some pollen incidentally anyways, and then they go back, and even though they're not collecting pollen, some of it's gonna dislodge in the honey. Right. Okay, all right.

Yep, so. Okay, so they get it, you digest it, then you say, okay, in this part of Texas, we only found these kinds of pollen in the honey, and that means it's like an East Texas honey.

Speaker 2: Right, so yeah, we identified, we split Texas up into 12 different ecoregions based on what the EPA did, and we found out what the major pollen sources are in the honey that bees are collecting from in each region. We also looked at like a podium, where there was a pollen concentration. So what that will tell us is each type of honey will fall into a different category of pollen concentration. For example, clover honey will have a lot of pollen in that honey because clover produces a lot of pollen with the nectar, and you're gonna have around 100,000 grains of pollen and 10 grams of honey.

Okay. Whereas something like mint produces very little pollen compared to how much nectar they produce. So you're barely gonna find any mint pollen in the honey, so the pollen itself is very underrepresented relative to the other pollen sources that bees are going after.

Speaker 1: So this pure mint, you won't find a lot of, one of the things that will appear as is not a lot of pollen if somebody tried to fake it and throw in some mint pollen, he's like, hey, wait a second, this is way weird.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so this pollen concentration will help us tell what's real and what's not. And if we know what the pollen concentration should be, we can tell if it's right or wrong.

Cool. And if we have a very low pollen concentration, it can also be a diagnostic that something might be wrong. So it can indicate that the pollen has been heavily filtered or strained, so when you filter your honey, you're inadvertently going to lose a lot of pollen as well.

Even if the mesh sizes are gonna be bigger than the pollen grain itself, a lot of times they'll get caught on the strainer itself anyways and you're gonna lose pollen in the honey.

Speaker 1: So you're a little suspicious when the honey, consistently you see containers of honey that are just like, hey, there's no pollen in this thing.

Speaker 2: Yeah, sometimes there's just not much pollen in some of the honey that I looked at. But it can also be for other reasons, such as the bees being fed sugar syrup during the nectar flow when the honey supers were on or high fruit discern syrup, or it's being mixed and diluted. But the thing is this pollen concentration value cannot tell us exactly what the issue is. So in addition to looking at the pollen qualitatively and qualitatively, we are also analyzing them with nuclear magnetic resonance.

This is in collaboration with a company called Quality Service International in Germany. And the technique of their use on NMR, nuclear magnetic resonance. And what it essentially does is it'll take the atom, the chemical, you take a sample and you'll take the chemicals and the natural spin state of the atom and you'll completely reverse it. So think of it as if you're holding a compass needle and you're facing north and you're trying to point itself. When you let go, it's going to want to bounce back to the north direction. So in this NMR process, this spin state, it's going to want to shock it with like a magnetic, in a new magnetic field.

It's going to spin into a state it does not want to spin towards and then it'll eventually bounce back. And once it does, it's going to create this really nice chemical spectrum that will give us the results on what the sugar spectrum of the honey looks like and it can give us a lot of different parameters that we're looking for such as sugar spectrum, different enzymes that we should be looking for in honey and which will tell us whether or not your honey has been heated.

Speaker 1: Oh, so it goes through and sort of characterizes the honey in a very complex way. So there's almost like a fingerprint for that specific honey.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so we have like a pollen fingerprint and now we have like a chemical fingerprint of the honey to help us identify what honey in this region should look like. Fantastic.

Speaker 1: All right, let's take a quick break. We asked all our guests the same questions. So you also, as a newly minted, I guess the term is everything but defended PhD students. We're going to ask you these questions.

It'd be a lot easier than when they asked you questions in your exam. I hope so. All right, Pierre, we're back. I don't know, you look like you're sweating. The first question is, this is really easy. Is there a book that you want people to know about?

Speaker 2: Yeah, I'm sure most of the listeners here have heard of this one already, but Mark Winston's book, The Biology of Honey Bee, is my go-to book. We, Dr. Rangels Honey Bee Course, my PI, taught it based on that book. And that book is just very, very well written. It isn't from the late 1980s or late 1990s, but all the information is still very relevant to the biology of honey bees.

Speaker 1: You know, I talked to Dr. Winston recently, and he's, you know, because he doesn't, you know, he works in diet. Well, we had him on a previous episode, but he said that he didn't, he thought like, he wrote it on his own back then. He said, there have been such strides in bee research that if somebody was going to attempt it again, it'd have to be like this huge undertaking, because it's really, but it is great, because you can like in probably three days of reading, you'd get all of the kind of state-of-the-art bee science from 1980.

Speaker 2: Yeah, and I mean, really up until then, they made huge advances on what we know today about bee biology. I mean, like the waggle dance, and I mean, everything that beekeepers know, and what we are studying now, I love it's based on that book, and what they found out back in the 1900s.

Speaker 1: Okay, so the next question I have is, do you have a go-to tool for the kind of work that you do?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so right now I am looking at a lot of nutrition. So I mean, we've talked a lot about pollen here. So right now my go-to tool really is like choice tests and no-choice tests, and with a geometric framework for nutrition. So I do, this is a very lab-based tool. I know a lot of other guests here on this channel talk about like a field-relevant tool, but frankly, a lot of times I'm in the lab, but this is just like a framework that we use to help model what an insect likes to eat, or what an organism likes to eat in nutritional space.

Speaker 1: That's right, for me. Yeah, so if you can use like a choice test, so you can have, give an animal two different types of foods, and then the animal, the idea of this framework is that they will consume both of these foods that are complementary until it reaches an optimal intake target. So this intake target is like the point for optimal growth and development for an organism. So with this tool, you can tell how much protein and carbohydrates this animal really likes to have to grow and develop.

Okay, so they kind of like walk over there, it's like, this is my, this is good, this is good stuff, and this stuff is okay, but if I had any choice, I'd go here.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so I mean, this is being applied to human nutrition as well. So I mean, we can look at our macronutrients, protein, carbs. I mean, I love, I think I love my carbs a lot. I shouldn't, but, and also like lipids, and then we can map it out and see. I guess a wine tasting is exactly that.

Speaker 1: Yeah. Yeah, this one has a leathery overtone. Right. Okay.

Speaker 2: So that's a tool I'm really focused on with right now.

Speaker 1: All right, the last question is, is there, is it, is honey bee your favorite bee or pollinator? Do you have like another one?

Speaker 2: I mean, the easy answer is the honey bee, but I actually started off working with nanopies and a curbit system, so watermelons. And that was with Dr. John Leong and Cal Poly Pomona. And at that time, I knew nothing about bees, but I was really fascinated with the helicic bees and also the agapostum on the green metallic bee. I thought that was very, very pretty. But also the helicic bees are a lot more complex than we really, I think that we give them credit for.

Speaker 1: We do have to do an episode on the helicic day, just the group, because it is like, you know, it is the kind of like maverick. It's social, it's solitary. It's got a weird environmental response. So anyway, that prompts me. I'm gonna go find a helicic expert. We are gonna have an episode on Helicic Day. Thank you for prompting it. Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.

Speaker 2: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: Good luck with your research. Thank you. We'll catch up with you later. Okay. Okay. Thanks so much for listening. Show notes with information discussed in each episode can be found at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu. We'd also love to hear from you and there are several ways to connect. For one, you can visit our website to post an episode-specific comment, suggest a future guest or topic, or ask a question that could be featured in a future episode. You can also email us at [email protected]. Finally, you can tweet questions or comments or join our Facebook or Instagram communities. Just look us up at OSU Pollinator Health. If you like the show, consider letting iTunes know by leaving us a review or rating.

It makes us more visible, which helps others discover pollination. See you next week.

Pierre Lau is a Ph.D. candidate at Texas A&M University, where he has devoted his time and effort to studying honey bee nutritional ecology. He started building his academic resume at the University of California, San Diego and California State Polytechnic University, Fullerton with honey bee behavioral and native bee pollination studies. As an emerging scientist in the field of honey bee nutritional ecology, Pierre has studied honey bee salt preferences in water, the types of plants honey bees collect pollen from in urban environments, and colony-level macronutrient preferences.

Listen in to learn all about pollen: how to collect and identify it, how it can be used in forensics, and the tools that researchers have developed to source it from particular plants.

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“The fun thing about pollen and why palynology is a thing is that every species of plant will produce a unique pollen grain to that species. We can play CSI and forensics here: when you look at the pollen that honey bees collect, you can trace it back to the plant that they were actually visiting.” – Pierre Lau

Show Notes:

  • The different kinds of pollen and it’s structure
  • How the FBI uses pollen to find criminals
  • How to collect pollen
  • Why the process of identifying pollen can be dangerous
  • How Lau is helping Texas beekeepers track the source of their honey
  • How Nuclear Magnetic Resonance can be used to discover the chemical fingerprint of honey originating in a particular region
  • Why honey is one of the top 10 most adulterated products in the United States

“A lot of times when I would sample pollen pellets and beekeepers have a guess about what their bees are collecting, they would be very surprised about what the results actually show. That’s because I think that we are very focused on what we can see: the flowering plants on the floor or shrubs. But a lot of times, the bees will actually go up into trees for their pollen.” – Pierre Lau

Links Mentioned:

Pierre’s favorite pollinator resources:

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