SciSun: It’s all the Buzz   Leave a comment

June 17 – 23 is National Pollinator Week. Why? Just Bee-cause. But it takes more than your average bee (or really, above-average, because bees are pretty important) to pollinate all the flowers in the world. And without the bees and bats and butterflies and birds and all the other pollinators, we wouldn’t have much of a world at all.

Pollination is when plants share genes – the molecular ‘instructions’ that make every individual unique, but at the same time links us all to one species and to all life – between each other to create seeds, fruit, and more plants, so the entire species of plant survives. These plant genes (scientifically called microgametophytes) are contained in powdery bits of pollen, which is found on specialized parts of flowers; and because plants can’t move by themselves (no matter what we saw in that late-night sci-fi movie), they need animals to transport the pollen between individual plants. But bees and bats and birds don’t even know they’re taking on the important job of pollinating – they’re just trying to grab a quick meal.

pollination_ani USFS

The flowers we all enjoy aren’t just there for us to admire and smell (but it’s always a good idea to stop and smell the roses – as long as there’s not a bee inside!); plants produce flowers to attract pollinators, by creating – along with pollen – nectar that contains sugar and nutrients. It’s the perfect snack for pollinators; and is the main, or even only source of food, for many insects, some bats, and most hummingbirds. When the pollinator flies into the flower, just looking for a sweet treat, it accidentally brushes against pollen, which sticks to its body. The next time Polly (Polly the pollinator. Get it?) flies into a flower, some of the pollen from other flowers she’s visited falls off, and pollen from the flower she’s in now, settles on her body, and the cycle continues: Polly gets her meal, the flowers get new genetic material to create seeds and new plants. Some animals are specialized to visit specific types of flowers – and no others – so the entire plant species is dependent upon these unique pollinators. And to insure pollinators visit as many flowers as possible, some plants produce a noxious taste in the nectar, so as soon as the pollinator takes a sip, she wants no more to do with this flower and flies away to another. Of course in that case the pollen has already been exchanged and Polly didn’t even get a meal which seems like a pretty selfish act, for a flower.

But the pollinators don’t seem to mind, they keep on visiting flowers, drinking nectar and transporting pollen. And they visit a lot of flowers – it’s estimated a single Honeybee (Apis mellifera) travels from hundreds, to over a thousand, flowers every day. And that’s not even counting weddings, Valentines Day, or the Rose Bowl Parade.

Even the Blue-tailed Gecko gets into the pollinating business.  In fact pollinating and insurance are just about the only careers available to Geckos.

Even the Blue-tailed Gecko gets into the pollinating business. In fact pollinating and insurance are just about the only careers available to Geckos.

So this week, find a pollinator and give her a hug. No, most pollinators are bees, bats and tiny birds, so they probably don’t want hugs. You could give a flower a hug. No that won’t work either. It’s best to just be very careful how we use pesticides (which can kill bees); keep our flowers watered and healthy; don’t allow cats outside where they can harm birds; and be grateful the pollinators are doing such important work. If we do all this, the pollinators will thank you. But probably, none of them will give you a hug.


Michonne Says: Flowers are great! I eat them for before-meal snacks and after-meal snacks and between-meal snacks and even for extra snacks. I don’t know what nectar is or pollens. But if they’re part of the flower, they must be great, too.

Posted June 23, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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