About Pollinators

The Truth About the Birds and the Bees…

  • While visiting flowers to collect nectar or pollen, pollinators brush against the reproductive parts of the flower, depositing pollen from a recently visited flower.
  • This step is necessary for many plants to produce fruits and seeds.

Why are they essential?

  • About three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants and at least 90 food crops eaten in North America depend on pollinators.
  • A world without pollinators would be a world without apples, blueberries, strawberries, chocolate, almonds, melons, peaches, pumpkins, and many other important food, fiber, and medicinal plants.
  • Through their action as pollinators, the honey bee contributes to the production of many billions of dollars worth of crops in America every year.

Pollinators in decline?

  • Localized ecosystem disruptions and declines in certain pollinator populations have been reported on every continent except Antarctica.
  • The causes of these declines include loss of habitat, misuse of pesticides, invasive plants and animals, diseases, and parasites.
  • Learn more about the decline of some pollinator species in the 2006 report Status of Pollinators in North America.

 

“Our Future Flies on the Wings of Pollinators”: explore more about the importance of pollinators and pollination services at www.pollinator.org.

Know Your Pollinators…

Pollinator Fun Facts Status Favorite Flowers
Bees There are more than 4,000 native bee species in the U.S. Certain populations, especially the honeybee in the U.S. and bumble bees in the U.S. and U.K, are in decline. But our knowledge of most of the 30,000 bee species worldwide is limited because most populations have not been monitored over time. Learn more about why bees might be dying and how the decline in bee abundance could affect our world… Bees prefer blue or yellow flowers and those that are sweet-smelling.
Butterflies Butterflies taste with their feet! Scientists have observed significant declines in the diversity of butterfly species in some areas of the U.S. over the past 30 years. Butterflies like flowers that are red, yellow, or orange. Scent doesn’t matter; butterflies rely more on vision and less on scent to find nectar.
Hummingbirds To survive, many hummingbirds must eat twice their body weight in nectar each day! Hummingbird populations appear to be stable or rising for some species, while a few species appear to be declining slightly. Hummingbirds are attracted to red, orange, or yellow flowers. Like most birds, hummingbirds do not have a highly developed sense of smell, so flower scent doesn’t matter.
Bats Some bats migrate 1,000 miles or more every spring from Mexico into the southwestern U.S. Most flower-visiting bats are found in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Three pollinating bats, including Leptonycteris curasoae and L. nivalis are threatened or endangered in the U.S. and Mexico. The cause of their decline appears to be destruction of critical cave roosting areas due to tourism and agricultural development. Bats like flowers that are large and white or pale in color. Some bat-pollinated flowers are open only at night and typically have a fermented, fruity, or musky scent.
Moths What’s the difference between moths and butterflies? Generally, moths fly at night and have antennae with all kinds of shapes whereas butterflies fly during the day and have knobs on the ends of their wiry antennae. There have been no published studies on population trends of pollinating moths, but several moths are on state or federal endangered species lists. Moths are attracted to sweet-scented flowers that are typically large and white or pale in color. Some moth-pollinated flowers are open only at night.
Flies Small flies called midges are necessary for cocoa trees to bear the seed that is used to make chocolate! There have been no published studies on population trends of pollinating flies, but one fly, the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, is on the endangered species list in the U.S. In tropical regions, flies are often found on pale, dark brown, or purple flowers that stink of dung or carrion. In temperate regions, they can be found on flowers of many colors, usually those that have easy access to nectar.
Wasps Although California is among the leading fig producers in the world, figs could not be grown commercially until tiny fig wasps were imported to pollinate them.
Watch out! Female wasps have stingers.
There have been no published studies on population trends of pollinating wasps. Preferences unknown.
Beetles Beetles are the oldest pollinators on earth and pollinate many of the most primitive flowering plants. There have been no published studies on population trends of pollinating beetles. Beetles are typically attracted to flowers that are white or green and have a wide opening.