Pollinators to Save the World

Pollinators of the Plant World

Pollinators are a part of our existence on Earth.  They are the carriers of plant life around the world and there are so many different kinds of pollinators.  Pollinators, defined, are “agent[s] that pollinate flowers.”  These agents collect pollen, nectar, and other small detriments from the plants to other flowers and then to different areas.  Some pollinators have tiny, spine-like hairs on their legs that collect pollen because they stick to the legs and then the pollen falls off as the pollinator visits other gardens or even regions.  Some spread the nectar that they intake and sometimes pollinators still spread pollen, despite the fact that they don’t have the tiny hairs.  All of these pollinators have different functions, life cycles, habitats, and needs for flowers.  Some pollinators are attracted by color and some are attracted by smell.  Pollinators are unique from other insects and birds, and they all play a key role in the process or pollination for our survival.

Image
(A bee pollinating a small pink flower)
http://anti-matter-3d.com/Stapeliads/hi/Bee_on_Hoya.jpg

One of the most important pollinators is bees.  There are many different types of bees from bumblebees to wasps.  They are the pollinators that have the tiny spines on their legs.  These tiny hairs are sticky and can collect pollen which the bees consume and use to feed their colonies with.  Bees also collect nectar to feed on for themselves and their colonies, too. Female bees are the only ones that collect nectar and pollen and bees can travel to a new area within 100 feet or even 1 mile.  Bees are also very different depending on the region and type they are.  Some types of bees live in small colonies in hives, some live in dwellings and snags, some burrow into low lying plants like clovers, and some even live in empty snail shallows if they are independent.   They are one of the most important groups because they are the most abundant of the pollinators.

Image
(A fly pollinating small white and green flowers)
https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7327/8887827459_feea05a284_z.jpg

Another group of pollinators are flies.  Flies don’t seem like the type of insect to pollinate, but like bees, they have the tiny spines on their legs and collect nectar and pollen.  There are 71 different families of flies that pollinate and visit flowers.  They are often mistaken for bees and wasps.  Some types of pollinator flies are flower flies, bee flies, and small-headed flies.  Most of them have short, tubular sucking mouth parts and they are usually attracted to shallow and flat flowers to accommodate for their mouth shape.  Flies are often attracted to strawberries, onions, and carrots, too.  Flies can live in cool and warm climates, and they also play a big role in pollination, despite the misconception and confusion of their short-lived purpose.

Image
(A butterfly pollinating a white flower)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6e/Euphydryas_editha_5679.JPG

 

The next group of pollinators, that I explored, are butterflies and moths.  Butterflies are one of the prettiest insects and people love them, but their counterpart, the moths, are just as important when it comes to pollination.  Butterflies, as adults, consume nectar.  They do not purposefully collect pollen for pollination because they do not have the tiny spines, but sometimes the pollen sticks to them a little bit and they take this pollen to their next destination.  Butterflies do not make nests for their young and they are independent when not migrating as groups to southern areas of the world.  Butterflies have long tongue like tubular mouths that can reach into deeper flowers and they are most comfortable in warm and sunshiny weather. In the mornings, they lay on warm rocks, walls, and paths to warm themselves up for their daily journey

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(A moth pollinating purple flowers)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/19/IC_Macroglossum_stellatarum1_NR.jpg

Moths are also very important, like butterflies.  Some eat seeds, organic matter, wool, and silk.  Despite another stereotype, there are very, very few moths that will eat your old clothing in the attic and create holes in all of your fabric.  Most moths do not have functional mouths or digestive tracts as adults, and they spread pollen that sticks to their bodies.  Our native yucca plant is solely dependent on the moths for pollination and growth.  Moths may not be as effective at pollinating like butterflies, but they still affect the plant life around the world.

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(A scarab beetle pollinating a small sunflower)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/Scarab_beetle_on_Encelia_californica_(3376142862).jpg

One of the last pollinator groups I researched were beetles.  Beetles were also insects I would not expect to pollinate flowers, like my prediction with flies.  Despite my belief, they are the greatest diversity of pollinators and they are attracted to bowl-shaped flowers with stamens and pistils.  Some beetles consume sap from trees and others consume pollen and nectar from flowers.  Some beetles pollinate flowers with the mess-and-soil method when they eat the flowers.  Nectar and pollen sticks to them and they spread it on their slow-moving journey.  Beetles are very important in deserts and in humid areas.

hummingbirdbirds sunflower(Top: A hummingbird collecting nectar from a red flower, Bottom: Birds collecting sunflower seeds)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Colibri-thalassinus-001-edit.jpg
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9e/Two_European_Goldfinches_on_a_Sunflower.JPG

The very last pollinators are birds.  Small birds are known to eat the seeds from specific flowers and plants.  Sparrows, at our school, eat the seeds from our large-growing sunflowers and they sometimes drop the seeds in different areas and regions.  Hummingbirds are very important pollinators because they have long beaks that can get into deep flowers so they can consume nectar.   They spread nectar when they go to other flowers and the pollen may stick to them and fall off as they move into different gardens, areas, or even regions.

 

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(People celebrating nature)
http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3046/2984765960_abc5102c22_o.jpg

Without pollinators, the flower and plant population would dwindle down to nothing and we would a lot of valuable assets for human life.  Without trees, plants, vegetables, and other plants, we would run out of some of our precious natural resources.  Without plants that create food for people, we would starve to death or eat all the animals and other resources too quickly.  But this would also deplete the animal life, too, because they also feed on vegetation.  We would also lose the connection between plants and people.  People need plants for Oxygen and plants need us for Carbon Dioxide.  The pollinators are the middle man and make life possible without strain or extra precautions to survive that may be just as detrimental for the Earth or us.

-Meygan 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Pollinators to Save the World

  1. This is a wonderful post full of information, colorful pictures and is incredibly relevant to what we are doing in the DOTG. However, I do feel that all of these pollinators are incredibly interesting, and many of them would benefit from potentially having 2 paragraphs written about them. I’d like to know specifically more about them in general. Things like “Beetles are very important in deserts and in humid areas” aren’t quite specific enough. Maybe the addition of a few sentences could back this statement up a bit more and make it mean a bit more. Also, this post could possibly benefit if it had more about what the spread of pollen and what it does for the flowers might be nice. More on the spines on their legs, and possible why they’re there would also be nice. Also, how may we introduce these pollinators into our system? Would it be important that we have a hive or a hummingbird feeder near the garden to help draw attention to our flowers? It’s all a lot to take in, but with a little modification, this will be even more powerful and interesting to read than it already was.
    -Will

  2. There is some really stellar information on pollinators in here! I think it would make your post just that much more pertinent to the Desert Oasis Garden if you gave a few specific pollinator species that we could potentially see in the garden. You also say, “All of these pollinators have different functions, life cycles, habitats, and needs for flowers.” You could talk more about why pollination is so important and how it relates to sustainability. I know that you chose plants that were specific to different pollinators in your other post that you incorporated into the Desert Oasis Garden. Do you know which pollinators are the most likely to inhabit the garden? Do different pollinators appear during different times of the year? For example, I hardly ever see bees in the winter, but I always see a ton of moths in the fall.

  3. Love the pictures! This is such a colorful and vibrant post. I like how you’ve written on paragraph on each type of pollinator, it is very readable. I am most interested in your paragraph on bees, specifically because of the horrendous situation within the bee population. Have you heard that bees have been dying in massive numbers? I feel like it is impossible to talk about pollinators without talking about the bee crisis. Bees are essential pollinators and pollinators are essential assets to an ecosystem, making the bee crisis a very real issue.
    I would love to hear how your research on pollinators will interact with your project. Maybe you could add a paragraph on why your research is relevant to you and how you will use what you’ve learned to tailor your project.

    • Bees are the most important pollinators overall because of their spreading of nectar for the colonies and pollen with the spines on their legs and with the many of miles the female bees travel to collect the nutrients from the flowers, it spreads the pollen and nectar as it falls off of them during flight. I had no idea that bees were dying in massive numbers! I will do research on that! Thank you!

    • Averill – thanks for bringing up this problem with the bee population collapse. It is a very important part of why this new garden is so very vital to ecosystem sustaianability.

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