Mystery: What is on the Honey Bee’s feet??? Milkweed Pollenia

What’s with this honeybees feet
July 1, 2010
Hi, I was photographing local honey bees and I was wondering what is on their feet. They look like yellow paddles. First image is the full photo and the second is a 100% crop to show the feet.
Thank you.
Terry L
Fond du Lac, WI United States

Honey Bee

Hi Terry,
First we must compliment you on the high quality and excellent detail and composition of your photograph.  We suspect the yellow paddles are parts of flowers that became dislodged as the Honey Bee gathered nectar and pollen, but we are getting a second opinion on this.  We hope to hear back with something conclusive from Eric Eaton.

Thank You.
They were feeding on milkweed flowers for the most part. I did notice at one point, one of the bees was stuck on a milkweed flower for about thirty seconds.

Eric Eaton confirms our suspicions:
Your hunch was dead on:  Those are milkweed “pollenia,” very sticky.  So sticky, in fact, that sometimes insects are unable to leave the flower and they die.  I’m not sure how this mechanism evolved for milkweed pollination.

2 thoughts on “Mystery: What is on the Honey Bee’s feet??? Milkweed Pollenia”

  1. Hi, I just had the same thing happen. I was just dislodging bees, I am running a sprinkler hoping to dilute goo. Very young bees


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