We’ve had a few questions about whether it is possible to sequence pollen in honey or from pollen balls collected by bees. Previous work by academic labs has shown this to be a promising technique.

Counting pollen is time consuming. It can take 8 hours to count 300-500 grains for a single sample. This is a serious bottleneck for any study that requires pollen counts. A weeks work under the microscope could net just 5 samples. Throughput in the lab using next generation sequencing can be 100 times greater. In addition, there is less training required on identification and less reliance on hard-to-come-by pollen reference collections.

There have been mixed results from the different studies. One of the most promising (Keller et al. 2014) used the ITS2 region–it’s a long sequence–and found relatively good correspondence between counts under the microscope and with next generation sequencing.

We’re currently working on some tests here and can report back the results that we find soon.

Keller, A., N. Danner, G. Grimmer, M. Ankenbrand, K. von der Ohe, W. von der Ohe, S. Rost, S. Hartel, and I. Steffan-Dewenter. 2014. Evaluating multiplexed next-generation sequencing as a method in palynology for mixed pollen samples. Plant Biology (Stuttgart).