The Marin Pollen Project


Articles and Photo by Linda Nave


 Worker bees headed home with pollen, 09/16/12, Forest Knolls

Recently Bonnie Bollinger of Marin Beekeepers conducted a survey of the clubs 200 plus members. Here are a few comments about the data collected:

- In the four years Bonnie has conducted the survey this year represents the largest participation.

 - Overall, bee losses were down this year at 41.4% versus 52% to 53% over the last 3 years.  

- Beekeepers classifying themselves as “hobbyists” still experienced losses of 53%

- a larger number of beekeepers are keeping bees in multiple locations – and are keeping more hives per location.


Marin Pollen Project


In October, The Marin Pollen Project will send off the last of the pollen samples which have been collected by 40 different beekeepers located throughout the County.  The samples will be tested for chemical concentrations of 171 pesticides, accelerants and herbicides.  The goal is to access the health environment of the hive and analyze possible connections to Colony Collapse Disorder.  The study has been going on since 2007 with commercial beekeepers providing the samples.  This year represents the first time pollen samples have been taken by beekeepers from a community.

For those of you who may not be aware, the primary source of income for a commercial beekeeper is through pollination.  Commercial bees, trapped in their hives, are packed onto a semi truck and carted to farms where the hives are distributed across the fields and the bees are released.  The pollination season starts in February in California with the Almond orchards and continues through the year with beekeepers carting their bees to Washington, Idaho, across the Great Plains, New York and finished out the year by traveling down the Eastern Coast to Florida for the orange groves in December and January.

Marin’s participation in the Pollen Project will provide the study a unique opportunity to analyze data collected from one area. The Marin samples, which have been taken monthly, have been grouped according to watersheds. 

The San Geronimo Valley Planning Group was the first non-profit to support the Pollen Project with a donation of $300.  The Project successfully met its goal and raised the $10,000 needed to pay for costs associated with the chemical screening process.  We hope to have the results by the end of the year.


Past Articles:



By Linda Nave

Editor’s Note:  In June 201,1 the Planning Group membership approved a $300 donation to sponsor bee hives in Forest Knolls and Lagunitas for this Pollen Study.  Subsequently, a PG member donated $300 to sponsor hives in Woodacre. For details about the Pollen Study in past Newsletters go to the PG website Click on Events & News.  Scroll down to PG Newsletter Archives.   Open pdf’s for June and July on the Pollen Study.


Pollen Study protocols will be decided in spring after an assessment of which hives successfully survived the winter season. The bees are currently in their hives clumped in a vibrating ball around the queen and the brood (bee larvae) keeping them at a perfect 96 degrees, no matter what the temperature drops to outside.  On sunny December days the intrepid forager bees will still venture out to collect pollen and nectar.  The pollen I’ve seen them bring back is either a pretty yellow orange or a bright white.  

Winter can be hard on the bees.  In spring, for the past three years, Marin Beekeepers has compiled a survey on survival rates of hives. We have 50-54% loss of hives over the winter; this is significantly lower than the national average of 30%. It is believed that the root of the high Marin rate of loss stems from the fact that most Marin beekeepers promote the philosophy of survival stock.  This is a difficult (heart breaking at times) means of keeping bees because when you see them struggling there is little you can do.  We do not treat our bees with any kind of insecticides (kills the mites that can infest the bees) or antibiotics.  The hope is that over time we will develop a genetically stable strain of bees that are adapted to Marin climates and have hygienic behaviors that provide a healthy disease free hive.   Watch for future updates of this important study.


The Marin Pollen Project


By Linda Nave

Marin Community Foundation has agreed to donate $1,000 to the Marin Pollen Project.  After collection of a few outstanding promised donations this will put the project at just over its goal of $10,000.  The project has commitments from 26 beekeepers with hives in 42 locations in Marin.

Marin Beekeepers will narrow the number of locations down to 30 by geographically mapping the various locations, selecting for even distribution.  So far it appears Sausalito, Ignacio/Hamilton area, and Nicasio are not represented in the study.  Interested beekeepers in those areas should contact Bonnie Bollinger of Marin Beekeepers,

During the 2012 bee season Beekeepers will take monthly pollen samples from their hives.  At the end of the study period, samples will be submitted to Penn State for testing by the USDA lab to then be analyzed by Penn State.   Samples will be screened for presence of 172 different chemicals.  While Penn State has tested over 1,100 hives since 2007, most have come from commercial bee colonies used in pollination.  Marin is the first community to participate in the study.  Marin Beekeepers will now complete finalizing testing protocol, developing the basis for other communities to participate in the future. 

The goal of the study is to gain empirical data on the chemical level in honeybee hives and analyze possible connections to colony collapse, a mysterious disease that has been linked to beekeepers reporting losses of 30 -90% of their hives.

The SGVPG has sponsored two Valley beekeepers Tim Crosse with hives in Woodacre & Robert Wilson and Linda Nave with hives in Lagunitas and Forest Knolls.



Busy Valley Honeybees are looking for a Benefactor?Marin beekeepers, participating in the Marin Pollen Project, will take small bits of pollen as samples from their bee hives monthly during the 2012 bee season. The samples will be screened for residues of 172 different herbicides, pesticides, metabolites, accelerants, and other chemicals. Results from the screening will be available per test site and tabulated to include a possible 30 test sites geographically spread throughout Marin.

Robert Wilson and I have Honeybee hives in Lagunitas and Forest Knolls. The Planning Group has approved a $300 sponsorship for our participation in the Pollen Project. The Steering Committee is looking for a second benefactor who will buzz in with a matching sponsorship for testing hives in Woodacre. Testing hives at both ends of the Valley will provide us a clear picture of chemical concentrations in our area.

The honeybee is another ‘Canary in the Coal Mine’ for all of us. Bees bring all of the persistent chemicals found in the environment, via pollen, back to their hive. Monitoring the chemicals found in bee pollen will help scientists understand how to help the bees and ultimately improve the health of our environment. Research has shown that homeowners use more chemicals per acre than commercial agriculture. We will be able to access if  homeowners are inadvertently playing a role in the decline of pollinator populations.

The Beekeepers are half way to their goal of raising $10,000 to offset the expenses associated with the chemical screening process. Over 40 beekeepers have requested to participate. The decision to include a site will be based on geographic location and the level of experience of the beekeeper. They are still looking for beekeepers in West Novato, Bel Marin Keyes and all the towns along the coast in West Marin.

Interested in learning more about Honeybees? There will be a class on August 20, “An Introduction to Honey Bees and the Life of a Colony.” Proceeds will benefit the Marin Pollen Project. For more information or to sponsor a hive go to When inputting payment information at the Comment Box – note – “Sponsorship for a hive in Woodacre.” Or email Beekeeper Bonnie Bollinger at

Editor’s note: The Planning Group just received an anonymous donation for the sponsorship of a second beehive in the Valley.