Pollinators

The simple truth is that we cannot live without pollinators.

Now that we understand what pollination is, just how do those pollen grains get onto the surface of the stigma?  Well, they travel with the help of vectors!

Vectors are like “pollen mobiles”: they are responsible for the physical transport of the pollen from one point to another. Vectors come in many forms but can be broken down into two different types, organismal vehicles and non-organismal vehicles.

You can read more about the two different types of vectors here.

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When many people think about biotic pollinators, by far the most well-known is the bee. It is commonly associated with pollen, nectar foraging, and honey production. However, pollinators are a very diverse group of animals, and each have their important role in pollination.  In fact, throughout time pollinators and the flowers they visit have developed specialized partnerships.  Built between pollinator and flower, these associations are based on the physical attributes, motives and abilities of the pollinator as well as the morphology and needs of the flower.

When in sync, these pollinator partnerships between organism and flower are extremely efficient and offer mutualistic benefits which ultimately is science and nature at its finest!

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Why do pollinators visit flowers?

Pollinators obtain food in the form of either or both the energy-rich nectar and protein-rich pollen.  In exchange, the pollinated flowers get a vehicle for pollen dispersal, in order to produce seed.  Although food is the primary benefit pollinators get from flowers, they are usually attracted to the flowers by the color and scent: these floral characteristics are often seen as “advertisements” and the pollen and nectar seen as the “reward”.

Not all pollinators respond to the same stimuli, so what one pollinator may find alluring another may not. Therefore, different types of “advertising” are used to attract specific types of pollinators. Flower type, shape, scent, and color all influence what types of visitors a flower will get.

When we define a set of floral characteristics within a plant species, we can then anticipate what type of pollinators may visit.  This is important for pollinator conservation, because if you include a variety of species whose flowers display varied pollination syndrome traits, you will ensure that you are attracting a diverse variety of pollinators in your new garden!

Want to know more?

Check out the links below for some great resources on pollinators

Books for purchase

Attracting native Pollinators and Managing alternative Pollinators  from the Xerces society

Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States from pollinator partnership and here is a link to further pollinator related books from their bookstore

Posters for bumblebee identification and classrooms art!

Manuals, information booklets and posters for free download

Bee Basics an introduction to our native bees from the USDA Forest service

Posters previous years designs for bumblebee identification and classrooms art!