Plant pollinators

Even though most people believe that only bee are plant pollinators, the situation is quite different. It is true that bees are the most important plant pollinators however, plants can be pollinated by butterflies, animals, birds, moths, beetles, wasps, bats, flies and even by human beings. Also wind, plays an important role in plant pollination. The plants and their pollinators have a mutual relationship since everybody involved gets benefits. There are flowers that attract only a certain type of pollinator and more general plants that can be pollinated by different pollinators. In the second case, there is the risk of the pollen not getting to the right species if the pollinator goes to another flower type next. There are also cases in which the plant and its pollinator are totally dependent on each other. These cases are called co-evolution. A typical co-evolution case is the one involving the yucca plant and the yucca moth. These two cannot live one without another. Only the yucca moth can pollinate the yucca flower.

bee on camomile The honeybees visits the plants during the day to get nectar and pollen for food. Bees can detect the region of low ultraviolet reflectance located in the centre of each petal. This ultraviolet pattern is called the nectar guide, which helps honeybees locate the centre of the flower. Honeybees prefer flowers that have a sweet smell and whose blossoms are blue, purple, yellow or white. They are not very attracted by red flowers, because they perceive red as black. Bee-pollinated flowers are mostly yellow, with ultraviolet nectar guides. Bees like flowers that have a sweet, delicate smell. They land on the flower to collect the food they need and the pollen grains sticks on their legs or on the fur of their body. Thus they transport the pollen grain from one flower to another.

Most plants give to their pollinators a reward, usually food in exchange for their service. However, the situation is not always like this. There is a tropical orchid, whose flowers smells exactly like the female of a certain type of wasps. In the case of this wasp specie, the males hatch one week earlier than the females, when the orchids are blooming. The male wasp, smell the scent of the orchid flower, are convinced that they have found their mate and thus they try to copulate. These orchid flowers not only smell but they also feel like a female wasp, and thus the male wasp is convinced that it has found the perfect mate. Eventually the male wasp realize the scam and they go in search for a real partner, in the meanwhile pollinating the orchid.

Beautiful sky over flower field There are birds that take nectar form flowers in order to feed themselves. There are 2000 bird species that feed on nectar. They prefer red or yellow flowers. Birds, like hummingbirds, have long bills to reach the nectar and they visit a large number of flowers during one day in order to satisfy their appetite. Birds prefer flowers that have tubes, funnels and cups. They like red, yellow or orange flowers and which are odorless, since birds have a weak sense of smell.

Butterflies as well as bees visit flowers in order to get the nectar which they use as a source of food. They prefer orange or red flowers. The butterflies have a long tongue, the proboscis, which they use like a straw in order to get the nectar from a flower. Butterflies have to land on the flower in order to feed and thus nectar sticks to their body. They transport the pollen to the next flower they land on.

Moths visits flowers at twilight or during the night. The prefer white or yellow flowers. Moths are attracted mainly by vegetable flowers because they have a very strong smell. They also have a proboscis, which they use in order to get the nectar from a flower.

Bats also act as plant pollinators. They are important pollinators in the desert and tropical regions. Bats are nocturnal beings and therefore they dependent on echolocation to move rather on their sight. However, the bats that act as pollinators have a good sight and long tongues to suck the flower nectar. They prefer white or light colored flowers. The flowers pollinated by bats do not have a very pleasant smell. They have a musty smell like the one of bats. Bats visit large flowers that are 1-1.35 inches. More than 300 species of plants depend on bat pollination, including the mango, the banana tree and the guava. The agave plant, used to make tequila also depends on bat pollination.

Flies pollinate flowers too. Since they are attracted by rotting meat, the flowers they pollinate a bad, rotten smell.

Ants as well visit flowers to collect nectar. They are attracted by low growing plants, with small, inconspicuous flowers, close to the stem.

Beetles are essential pollinators. They were among the first insects to visit flowers. They nicknamed mess and soil pollinators because they defecate inside a flower. They prefer bowl-shaped flowers, white or green, with a strong fruity smell. They pollinate magnolias, pond lilies, spicebush, goldenrods, Spirea, etc.

Wasp are pollinators which belong to the Hymenoptera order like bees and ants. Wasps look like bees but most of them are not covered with fuzzy hairs. Therefore they are not so efficient pollinators as bees.

There are also small or large animals that act as pollinators. Among these are: the lemurs, the honey possum of Australia, the bush babies, the sugar gliders, the lizards and the geckos.

Other plants like pine or grass are wind-pollinated. They produce large amount of pollen grains which are taken by wind to the female cones.

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