Nature’s Vast Pollinator Network
April 16, 2020
by Aaron Pflug • Kidzeum Staff
In a previous post, bees – especially the honeybee – were championed as an essential pollinator…and they certainly are. However, if we could ask a plant or flower, it would probably tell us that the most essential pollinator is whomever (or whatever) gets the job done! Today let’s pay homage to a few other creatures playing pivotal roles as pollinators!
Yes – you’ve heard of them and most likely seen them, but the Monarch butterfly deserves mention for a couple of reasons. First, as pollinators, Monarchs in the adult stage will visit many different flowers to drink nectar and, consequently, pick up and transfer bits of pollen throughout the process. Furthermore, late season Monarchs can live for months and migrate thousands of miles…pollinating the whole way! Unfortunately, the other reason they’ve been included here is because these beautiful pollinators are in trouble. Monarch butterflies face dire challenges as milkweed (the only place Monarchs lay eggs) is eradicated as a nuisance weed and other factors threaten the Monarch’s environment. But there are ways to help!
Hummingbird Moths are another pollinator you may have seen in our area! And, as they name implies, these moths possess characteristics reminiscent of hummingbirds – making them fascinating visitors to your garden! Check out this video showing the hummingbird moth in flight and using its long proboscis to reach sought-after but hard-to-access nectar. While the hummingbird moth is probing the flower for nectar, it is transferring bits of pollen from previously visited flowers and collecting new pollen, thus acting as pollinator! Keep an eye out for a hummingbird moth visit to your yard!
If you’re a fan of chocolate, you are greatly indebted to this little fly as it’s the only pollinator taking care of the cacao tree – the plant from which chocolate is derived! The cacao tree itself makes pollination difficult, but the chocolate midge nevertheless persists and utilizes its miniscule size to reach places other pollinators do not or will not go. And, for their efforts, many of us are eternally grateful!
Whenever the need for an example of an interesting or unique animal arises, Australia always seems to deliver. The Honey Possum is tiny, nectivorous marsupial vital to the survival of some native Australian plants and flowers. In the same way insect pollinators may use a tongue-like proboscis, the Honey Possum can access the deep-lying nectar it seeks with an elongated snout and adapted tongue. And, of course, the Honey Possum is as cute
as you would expect a delicate, nectar-drinking mammal would be!
This list could go on and on for quite a while because there are hundreds of thousands of species of animal and insect who qualify as pollinators! Animals like bats and other small mammals, some lizards, and, of course, birds act as pollinators. So do a wide variety of insects – including species of beetles, ants, wasps, bees, moths, and butterflies! Nature needs, and thankfully for the time being has, a large and varied workforce to keep things blooming!