One morning I read an article on the effects of pesticides on pollinators. In the article was a
picture of a bee curled up on the ground after ingesting nectar from a flower that had been
sprayed while attempting to eradicate mosquitoes. As sad as this was, it motivated me to help. For
35 years I have taught and lectured on Alternatives to Pesticides in the garden, so I began my
latest challenge as a “Pollinator Advocate.” Pollinators are in trouble, in part, due to practices
that some of us have performed on our planet including our landscapes, farms, and gardens.
This has been done unknowingly of the harm to these beneficial insects that are essentially
providing us with plant based nutrition that fuels our bodies, fibers to clothe us, spices and
medicines, oxygen, and a stunning array of flowers.

A pollinator is any insect, bird, or mammal that moves pollen from the male anther of a flower
to the female stigma of a flower of the same species. This simple action allows the plant to
make seed and reproduce. 90% of plant species require a pollinator to reproduce.

This Bee in a Hibiscus Flower clearly shows how easy pollen granules are moved from flower to flower. Image Credit: Luc Viatour.

Actually, we can be a pollinator by using a small brush and taking pollen from one plant and dabbing it on the other. We aren’t very fast or efficient but we can be called a pollinator. Perhaps we could classify the most efficient pollinators in 7 major groups:

 

1. Beetles – the oldest of the pollinators. They are most well know for their pollination of Magnolias. They are a bit cumbersome and some of the pollen that collects on their feet and body is lost as it moves from flower to flower in its quest for nectar.
2. Bees – Bees are often what we think of when we think pollination but surprisingly social bees such as honey bees and bumble bees are a small percentage of our pollinators. Solitary bees such as leaf cutter, green metallic and others are among the 20,000 species of bees that pollinate.
3. Flies – Flies are pollinators of chocolate. There is also flies called Hover flies that have a larva
stage that is a great predator for pest management. I see these larva eating my plump
orange aphids on my milkweed.
4. Moths – Most moths are nocturnal and many are good pollinators. As a bonus they lay eggs
on plants that provide caterpillars for most momma birds to feed their young, so they
provide double benefits in the garden
5. Butterflies – Most butterfly species pollinate and some are the primary pollinator for certain
flowers. They are eye candy in the garden always encouraging us to pause and enjoy their beauty.

Photo by Ann Barklow

6. Hummingbirds – are only in the Western Hemisphere and assist in pollination for those
tubular flowers that some pollinators have a hard time getting in.
7. Bats – pollinator over 500 plant species including mango, banana, cocoa and agave (used to
make tequila).

 

If pollinators can’t fit in tubular flowers like hummingbirds can, they will make a slit like in this
Cuphea blossom, to rob the nectar but don’t pollinate because they are sneaking in the
flower and not making contact with pollen. They are fondly referred to as Nectar Robbers.

Other Resources:

So many ways we can help.
http://millionpollinatorgardens.org

Protect their lives…Preserve ours.
http://www.pollinator.org

Are you a City or Campus that wants to create
sustainable habitat for Pollinators?
http://www.beecityusa.org

Protecting the Life that Sustains us
https://xerces.org

More Educational Material:
http://tppcwebsite.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Native-Pollinators-Diversity-andHabitatAssessment.pdf

http://ccuh.ucdavis.edu/Events/ysb-series/
ysb-2015/3-pollinators-we-never-talk-about-l-kimsey

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About Ann Barklow

Ann is a Certified Horticulturist, Master Gardener and Arborist with 35 years in the Horticultural and Landscaping Field. In her community, she serves on the Piedmont Tech Horticultural Advisory committee along with Bee City USA, America in Bloom, Lakeland's Master Gardener Board of Directors, and the Festival of Flowers Committee. She is a Strategic Partner with Park Seed, Wayside Gardens and Jackson and Perkins - educating on pollinators and wildlife.

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