Pollinators are organisms that carry pollen from one flower to another. Flowering plants depend on pollinators in order to reproduce. These relationships are so important that many plants have adapted traits that make their flowers more attractive to pollinators, such as having brightly colored petals or having a sweet smell. In the United States there are over 150 food crops which require animal pollination in order to produce fruit and seeds needed for reproduction. Pollinators can be anything from bees, bats, flies, butterflies, moths, ants, beetles, all the way to birds, hummingbirds and even rats on occasion.
The pollinators don't carry the pollen from plant to plant for free though. Flowers produce nectar which is a big attractant for some of the major pollinators like bees and butterflies. The insects will land on the flower petals and bury their proboscis (tubular mouth part) deep into the flower in order to suck out the nectar. In this process, the hairs covering the bees and butterflies will become dusted with the pollen on the anthers. When the insect moves to the next flower, some of the pollen will be brushed off of the hairs and deposited into the new plant.
All of these pollinators play a key role in our ecosystem and crop development, but when it comes to impact the honey bees takes the prize. Each year pollination by honey bees directly and indirectly contribute to an estimated $19 billion in economic impact which is $9 billion more than all others combined. It is only because of key organisms like these that our crops and flowers are able to fruit and grow their seeds that we rely on as a source of food and a means to grow even more of these vital plants.
Check out our timeline that shows details of the recent Pollinator Decline:
On June 3rd, the National Pollinator Garden Network and 25 partner organizations launched a new project, the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, to help stem the tide of population declines among pollinating species. The project hopes to achieve its goal of registering a million gardens that support pollinators with food sources produced by native and non-invasive plants by the end of 2016. Providing nectar and pollen-generating plants is a key tactic for rebuilding the numbers of bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinating species that are so critical for healthy, sustainable habitats and agriculture.
The Challenge is an easy and effective way to help fight one of the biggest threats to wildlife worldwide—habitat loss. Find out more about the Challenge and register your pollinator-friendly habitat through our joint certification with the National Wildlife Federation!
Join the #polliNation today!