Thursday, March 10, 2016

Pollinators - Meet the Pollinators

We all know that honeybees pollinate our fruit trees and vegetable gardens each spring, but there are many other animals that contribute to successful pollination in the United States. Many of these animals you may not even be aware of. I'd like to teach you some basic facts about the pollinators that frequent your yard.

Bees - There are two different types of bees which may frequent your yard. The first type is the one that we are most familiar with. They are the bees which live in communities, such as honeybees or bumble bees. The other type are solitary bees. Solitary bees are sometimes also referred to as native bees, and include such species as leaf cutter and carpenter bees.

Wasps - Wasps contribute somewhat to the pollination of plants. Since wasps lack the fuzzy, hairy bodies of their cousins the bees, it is a bit more difficult for the pollen to stick to them and be transferred from plant to plant. If your worried about encouraging wasps to hang around, keep in mind that solitary wasp species are typically less aggressive than those that live in a community.

Beetles - You wouldn't think that beetles would be on the list of pollinators, but here they are! Pollinating beetles eat pollen, nectar, petals, and other parts of flowers, and the messy little fellows drag pollen along with them from flower to flower as they go.

Flies - There are several species of flies, gnats and midges that are known to pollinate. These fly species feed on nectar and pollen, much like bees and wasps. Hover flies, also called flower flies, frequent flowers and often resemble bees and wasps in coloration and body shape.

Butterflies - Although not as proficient as bees, butterflies contribute to pollination during daylight hours. It is a bit more difficult for them to pick up pollen because their long legs tend to keep their bodies well away from it. Butterflies don't have a great sense of smell, and so are attracted to the colors of the flowers rather than the scents.

Moths - Moths do double duty on visiting plants. There are some species that feed at night, and some who feed during the day. Unlike butterflies, moths rely primarily on their sense of smell to locate flowers, especially those who feed at night. Some species of moth feed while hovering, while others land on the flowers to drink up the nectar.

Hummingbirds - Hummingbirds are the primary species of birds pollinating in the United States. They spread pollen around while feeding on the nectar of the flowers. As they poke their long beaks into the flowers, the pollen is dusted onto their faces and heads, and is then taken to the next flower they feed from. These birds do not have a good sense of smell, so they rely on bright colors to indicate where flowers are.

Bats - Although the majority of the bat species that live in my neck of the woods feed on insects, there are a few bat species which frequent the United States and feed on flowers or nectar. These bat species migrate from Mexico, into the desert portions of the southwest. They feed on, and subsequently pollinate, succulent plants and cacti.

Please note that I did not take any of the photos on this page. They are all stock images. I don't want to take credit where credit is not due! My skills as a photographer are a bit too limited to capture these sorts of images!