Pollen, Pollination, Pollinators, Bee Plants

The Relation of spring pollen release to weather in Fairbanks, Alaska. By Theodore F. Fathauer. 2012. MS Thesis University of Alaska Farbanks, Fairbanks, AK

Twenty-three years of pollen data for Fairbanks have been analyzed and related to
meteorological data (temperature, wind, relative humidity and precipitation). The
purpose of this research is to develop quantitative statistical relationships between weather parameters and the timing and magnitude of pollen release for four taxa native to the Fairbanks area. During the spring and early summer in Fairbanks, dry, sunny and breezy days are common. These conditions are ideal for establishing an unstable boundary layer and its accompanying convective circulation, which can loft large quantities of pollen into the atmosphere. The timing of pollen release varies from season to season to season by as many as 24 days. Growing degree days based upon daily maximum temperatures and daily minimum relative humidity are the parameters which best define the timing of the onset of significant pollen release. The day-to-day concentration of pollen and the seasonal totals of pollen released can vary by more than an order of magnitude. Weather plays an important part in this because the release of
pollen is a result of a drying process accompanied by turbulent circulation, which
disperses the pollen. The amount of summer precipitation required to significantly reduce pollen concentration is small, particularly for taxa with maximum pollen concentrations early in summer – in the second half of May through the first half of June. The diurnal and seasonal patterns of pollen release in the high latitude region around Fairbanks differ from those of many taxa in the middle and subtropical latitudes.


Fireweed, a premier but fickle honey plant. by Stephen F. Petersen and Vaughan M. Bryant. 2010. American Bee Journal. April. 395-398.

A great review of fireweed as the premier honey plant in Alaska including a bit of botany, pollen analysis, bee plants and honey products.


History of Beekeeping in Alaska Part 1 of 2. 2010. by Stephen Petersen. American Bee Journal. Feb. pp.171-175.

A short history of beekeeping in Alaska from 1900 with Father Methodius, Alaska's first beekeeper to the 1920s.


History of Beekeeping in Alaska Part 2 of 2. 2010. by Stephen Petersen. American Bee Journal. March. pp.277-280.

A short history of beekeeping in Alaska from the 1920s to present.


One man's weed is another man's honey. by Stephen Peterson. 2011. American Bee Journal. May. pp. 497-500.

An analysis of common weeds including some labeled invasive and their usefulness as honey plants.


The value of non-native plant species to honey production in Alaska's Interior. Manuscript by Stephen Peterson and Hal Livingston. 2012. 13p.

Invasive plants are defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health” (Executive Order 13112 of February 3, 1999). Beekeeping in Alaska’s Interior is a popular pursuit for many Alaskans both rural and urban, frequently forming the basis for a small business or often a part-time activity that can pay for itself. There are approximately 200-250 beekeepers in the Interior (Tanana Valley) managing 700-750 colonies of honey bees (Petersen 2010b, Hicks 2009). Because of the difficulty of successfully overwintering honey bee colonies most beekeepers purchase 3-4 pound packages each spring from suppliers in California (there are about 3200 bees per pound), manage them throughout the season, and either attempt to overwinter or kill them off, storing the equipment for the next spring. Some attempts are made to re-ship the bees back to California in the fall (Fairbanks Daily News Miner 9/13/2010).
The contribution of non-native plants to honey production in the Interior can be estimated by methods of melissopalynology (the study of pollen in honey); samples sent to a laboratory at Texas A& M University show that several types of clovers are significant contributors. In light of the USDA definition of invasive plants and their economic impact on agriculture beekeepers were randomly sampled as to the amount of honey production for several years and the value of the crop at the retail level. In 2009 the value of honey produced in Alaska’s Interior was $1,120, 000. The 2008 crop was significantly lower (<$200,000) due to bad weather, and initial estimates for the 2010 crop are in excess of $850,000; of this amount, approximately half can be estimated to originate from non-native plants.
Few beekeepers could be found who would advocate the spread of invasive non-native plants; our issues are with the proposed methods of control and the perceived threat, stated in economic terms, either to agriculture or the environment. Alaskan honey commands a premium price because of the perception of a pure and pristine environment – chemical control of non-native invasive plants would detract from this perception.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Georgeson Botanical Garden, PO Box 757200, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775 (907) 474-1944, gbgardensuaf@gmail.com