Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Some Other Native Pollinators
Bumblebees are special and unique in many ways. One way in which they are not unique is in being a group of native pollinators. There are also lots of other native insect pollinators, hundreds of different species.
Many of our native pollinators are bees as well, but there are also lots of flies, wasps, butterflies, moths, and beetles that provide pollination services to flowering plants.
Debbie Hadley, who writes about insects for About.com, has provided a nice overview of 10 important native pollinators, all of which happen to be bees. And this is appropriate because of all the insects, bees are the most thoroughly adapted for gathering pollen and transfering it from flower to flower.
To put Debbie's 10 pollinators in context, approximately 17,000 species are from known around the world at present. And those species can be divided into about 7 families. A family is a group of species that have a lot of things in common, things like anatomy, behaviour and ecology. And most bee families differ from each other in appearance, habits and lifestyle.
All this is only to point out that although the bumblebee ways of pollinating plants are very effective, they are by no means the only methods of doing so.
Find out what Debbie Hadley has to say about the ways carpenter bees, mason bees, sweat bees, polyester bees, squash bees, dwarf carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, alkali bees and digger bees. You'll be amazed at how many of these little creatures are helping us out by pollinating our fruit and vegetable crops.
I'm glad bumblebees are the first on Debbie's list. Fortunately, many of the things we can do to support bumblebees, things like planting bee-friendly gardens, will support the rest of the native bees as well. Debbie has also posted a list of 12 things you can do to help native bees.
Bees just love flowers, so we have to give them all we can.
[The photograph is of a mason bee, courtesy of USDA, made available on the Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain.]