Most of us know how important pollination is, not only in our own gardens but also for food crops. Just what insects pollinate flowers and how do they do it?
Pollination is important, not only in the flower garden, but also in the food garden, for fruit trees and for some crops. Without pollination the plants will not make fruit, seeds and nuts like they are supposed to. Pollination by wind is the way many fields of cops are pollinated, but in our gardens we need the insects to help us. This is just another reason why you would want to attract pollinator insects to your garden.
Insects that pollinate flowers are often called pollinators or pollinator insects. Have you seen insects flying from flower to flower in your garden, sitting on each flower that they visit? Those are probably pollinator insects that you saw. The most well-known of these are butterflies and bees.
Butterflies and bees are welcome in most gardens. They visit the flowers to eat the nectar that the flowers make. When they sit on the flowers some of the pollen gets stuck to their furry little legs and bodies. When they go to the next flower, some of this pollen sticks to the stigma of the flower and new pollen gets collected again. In this way the insects are taking pollen from one flower to another and without even knowing it, they are pollinating the flowers in your garden.
Butterflies and bees are often brightly coloured and this helps us to see them easily. While there might not be that many of them busy pollinating the flowers in your garden, you will still easily notice them. Some of the other little worker insects are not so easy to spot and thir hard work is often not noticed.
We have mentioned the well-known butterflies and bees, but what other insects pollinate flowers?
Also well-known is the bumblebee. What many people don’t know is that bumblebees pollinate plants by a method called buzz pollination. While they feed off a flower their buzzing vibrates the flower and loosens grains of pollen. These grains of pollen fall from the flower and land on other flowers lower down. Like other bees, they can also carry pollen from one flower to another when it sticks to their fluffy bodies.
Did you know that moths also pollinate flowers? Moths are active at night and also feed on nectar. They prefer to visit flowers that open at night to get their supply of nectar. These are the night-shift workers in your garden.
Flies can also often be seen visiting flowers, but because they are not normally brightly coloured we don’t notice them that easily. If you watch closely you will see that flies also fly around the flower garden and they are also helping with the job of pollination.
Last but not least we have the beetles. There are many beetles that will visit flowers. These can also lend a helping hand.
Did I say last? Ooops! We also have wasps and spiders that sometimes use flowers as hiding places, or they go there in search of prey. Without them knowing it they can also carry pollen around.
Now you know some of the insects that you will want to work for you in your yard. You will definitely want to create a haven these insects. If you want more information on this topic you can also read: How to attract pollinators.
There are also some great books available on this subject. They give lots of useful information and a great resource to add to your collection. A popular one is Pollinators of Native Plants by Heather N. Holm.
What pollinator insects do you like to see flying around your yard?
Do you have a favourite?
Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts or questions.