How often are you working in your garden and you see a honeybee buzzing from one Tulip or vegetable to another? At each stop, it dives deep into the flower using its tongue to lap the nectar that hides further than what we see. When you see it back out, it has tiny specks of pollen stuck all over its hairy body.
We can appreciate and understand a sector of nature that most usually do not notice when we garden for pollinators. That sector is insects. Once you do begin to pay attention, you will discover an entire world that is even more important, fascinating, and complex than any of us realize.
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We have a responsibility to look deep into all the amazing ways Bees, Butterflies, and other Animals ensure our gardens and crops and why we need them.
Even though it is simply searching for food, there are thousands of bee species and other animals including insects that aid with plant reproduction. Out of the 240,000 estimated flowering plants around the globe, 91 percent require an animal or insect to distribute their pollen to set seed and fruits.
That number includes the one-third of the crops for humans. These include cotton, squash, berries, almonds, and fruits. The majority of people already recognize that bees are a vital pollinator. However, that is not all. Many species of flies, moths, birds, bats, butterflies and even mammals are pollinators.
They are each incredibly important to reproduction that most of our plant life would not exist without their help.
While the honeybee is the best-known bee, most pollination happens thanks to the wild solitary bees, such as mason bees, which do not live in hives.
Even with the critically vital service they offer us, humans widely take pollinators for granted, and most are in severe jeopardy. We, as a globe, are facing an “approaching pollination crisis” where both managed and wild pollinators are dangerously disappearing at alarming rates according to the U.S.D.A.
In the last decade in the U.S., honeybees have decreased by 25 percent due to parasitic mites. Also, wild pollinators habitats are in danger due to disease and pesticides as well as the destruction of land and forest. All of this continues to take place even though researchers understand how efficient and valuable these pollinators are.
- 1 The True Primer for Pollination
- 2 Why Flowers Really Exist
- 3 How to Attract Hummingbirds, Butteries, Bees, and Other Pollinators
- 4 The Following is a List of Plants, Trees, and Shrubs That Attract Pollinators
- 5 World-Wide Food for Thought
- 6 The Cost of Pollinator Loss
- 7 Diet and Nutrition Diversity
- 8 Maintaining the Ecosystems
- 9 Meet the Hero’s
- 10 Meet the Bee Family
- 11 Meet the Butterfly Family
- 12 Meet the Fly Family
- 13 Meet The Moth Family
- 14 Meet the Hummingbird Family
- 15 Meet the Bat Family
- 16 To Wrap This Up
The True Primer for Pollination
Flowers make people happy and inspire us at the same time. To the millions of passionate gardeners around the globe to the tulipmania of the 17th century Europe, flowers are the canvas of the world. Whether you are an obsessive orchid collector now two centuries later, or the gardener who spends every moment possible tending to their flower gardens, flowers enhance lives.
Even though there are people who live for flowers, they do not exist for us. Their job and sole duty is to lure pollinators. These pollinators include to following:
That also includes all the many other animals that expedite reproduction. Most people have no clue that flowers are the principal reproduction organs for plants. Here is how that works. When an insect lands on a flower and begins its search for pollen and nectar to eat, more critical work happens. Tiny pieces of pollen on the Anther (the male part of flowers), sticks to the insect’s body.
Then, that insect travels to a different flower and some of the pollen sticks to the stigma (the female part of flowers). The pollen fertilizes the Ovules, and seed production begins. Is it just my love for nature or is that absolutely fascinating? Nature is an incredible part of our world that we take for granted.
Why Flowers Really Exist
Flowers have come a long journey over the last millions and millions of years in an extraordinary assortment of strategies. From the scent and petal design to the color; flowers facilitate the work of pollinators in more ways today than ever before.
For example, Lilies such as these, guide the bees to its nectar-rich center via its ridged petals. It has petals that all share the same center of blanket flowers that create a targeted focus on nectar. Butterfly weeds and zinnias such as these examples are not only stunning; they have flat-topped flower clusters to attract butterflies.
Moreover, these beautiful delphiniums have a unique petal that is a landing platform for the bees. One other fascinating example of flower and insect partnership is the bumblebee and the monkshood like this example.
The monkhead flower is utterly dependent upon the bumblebee for pollination. As you can see in the picture, the flowers perfectly adapt to the needs of the bumblebee. Just like the name says, the sepals are petal-like of each monkhood blossom. These petals form a cover that is hood-like to conceal the two long spurs that contain nectaries filled with nectar at the end.
The bumblebee is the only insect that can reach the nectar loads thanks to it long tongue. However, the bumblebee must walk over both the female and male parts of the flower when it enters the blossom. Monkhood would be non-existing without visits from bumblebees to set seed and reproduce.
How to Attract Hummingbirds, Butteries, Bees, and Other Pollinators
1. Plant Pollen and Nectar-Rich Flowers
One of the most vital steps you can help is to plant a garden that is pollinator-friendly. Choose pollen and nectar-rich plants such as the old-fashioned flowers and these Forget-Me-Nots. A blend of shrubs, perennials, and blooming annuals are the best pollen and nectar that are available throughout the growing season.
If you are unsure of what these are, here are some examples. This Dwarf Burning Bush, Red Hot Poker Perennial, and, the Black Dahlia annual make a stunning feast for pollinators. Add plants such as fennel, dill, and milkweed for the butterflies to have a place for their larvae to feed.
2. Provide the Pollinators Shelter
Bees, butterflies, and other vital pollinators need shelter from lurking predators. Such shelters also aid them in getting out of the harsh weather elements, as well as rear their young. You can provide this by letting a section of your yard or hedgerow grow wild for the bees that ground-nest.
Let a log decompose or pile of grass cuttings in a sunny spot on the ground. Alternatively, keep a dead tree standing to create nooks for solitary bees and butterflies. Vacant lots offer the perfect place for a community of bees to survive.
Any type of garden will support and attract pollinators. It can be a meadow of wildflowers or something as simple as a planter filled with a few of the flowers I just mentioned.
3. Provide Water and Food
A garden made for pollinators provides nectar and pollen. Adding feeders especially made to attract butterflies and hummingbirds add to your garden or just around your yard. Butterflies, birds, and bees, all need water.
You can place a simple catch basin or birdbaths, such as this one, and watch as it begins to attract these busy pollinators for water as they pass by and do their work for us. A mud puddle is a place butterflies flock to for the nutrients and salt as well as water.
4. Go Organic
It is no secret of the battle that continues to brew here in the U.S. over pesticides and the danger they are to our health. There are pesticides, including some organic ones, which are toxic to the beneficial organisms, including honeybees. Hopefully, you understand already how vital the honeybee is to our existence?
There really is no known reason to have to use the incredibly potent poisons to protect a garden from diseases and insects. These poisons may very well offer a fast knock-down to the targeted attacker short-term, but they also destroy beneficial organisms.
You also expose your pets, family, wildlife, and yourself to toxic chemicals. These chemicals risk disturb the natural ecosystem that you, your flowers, and your garden inhibit.
When you use the organic approach, you are helping in a more effective, safer way. You can work with nature to control diseases and pest by applying the principles of environmental plant protection. You can also reap the benefits of a healthier harvest while protecting pollinators and beneficial insects.
However, if you do choose to use pesticides, be sure to apply them selectively and carefully. To protect all pollinators, never use pesticide when bees or the other species are present or to open blossoms.
The Following is a List of Plants, Trees, and Shrubs That Attract Pollinators
- Musk Mallow
- Purple Coneflower
- Queen Anne’s Lace
- Bee Balm
- Wild lilac
That is the tip of the iceberg. There are so many additional options you can plant to help keep our little pollinators healthy and happy.
World-Wide Food for Thought
How many of you reading this consider bugs, insects, birds and other important species to be essential to food security worldwide? Pollinators such as wasps, moths, butterflies, and bees provide the food system around the world with an invaluable service that cost us nothing.
There are no cost, wasted energy, or human labor. Nothing! As I discussed earlier, pollination happens, and it is crucial to the quality, quantity, and the value of our global food supply. Remember earlier where I mentioned that 91 percent of flowering plants rely on pollination? Over three-fourths of the leading food crops around the globe depend on pollination for increased quality and yield.
Overall, 35 percent of crop production volume in the world is attributable to those that are pollinator-dependent. Even with this number, animal pollinators are progressively in the cross-hairs of extinction. Such a disappearance threatens continuous agricultural production and food security.
Ok, follow me here. This information is pretty in-depth, but it is necessary. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) states that over 40 percent of the invertebrate species we rely on (bees, flies, ants, hoverfly, etc.) are in danger.
Along with that group are nearly 16.5 of the vertebrate pollinators, ( birds, bats, rodents, other wildlife) that are all at risk of extinction around the globe. These numbers are this alarming due to the following reasons:
- Environmental Pollution
- Pesticide Use
- Climate Change
- Invasive Pathogens
- Intensive Agricultural Management
Each of these aid in the widespread threat that varies among regions and countries. Rigorous farming practices, such as pesticides and insecticides, are enormously threatening the health of the wild animal pollinators.
The habitats of these animals are leaving, and GMO farms are replacing the land, and their food sources become riddled with poison. All of this impairs their natural purpose of pollinating and reproducing. This damage is evident in Southwest China and the U.S. where pesticide use and intensive farming is slowly eradicating the wild bee population.
Not only does all this threaten the health of the pollinators, but it also puts our ecosystem, communities, and the health of our economy in jeopardy. All of this all makes me sad.
The Cost of Pollinator Loss
It is not only the local economy that suffers from the destruction of our valuable little buddies; it is a national and global crisis. Everyone on this planet depends immensely on the services provided by the pollinators we rely on for so much.
If there were an extinction or endangerment of insects and other creatures, the global economic fallout would be enormous. Take a close look at these numbers. That 5-8 percent of crop production around the globe that relies on pollination has an annual valued market worth between $238-$577 Billion…Let me say again, Billion, worldwide.
In the U.S. alone, these little birds, insects, and other animals contribute to more than $24 billion to our economy. The honeybee along comprises of $15 billion of that thanks to their contribution to vegetables, fruits, and nut crops.
If it all crumbled, it would lead to severe financial ruins for every party involved throughout the food supply chain. Crops that animals pollinate, such as coffee, cocoa, and almonds make up for astronomical market shares of the world’s economy. We rely on providing import and export markets for countries around the world and of all income levels.
Looking at it that way you can see how billions of livelihoods rely on the availability of these crops for employment and income. If these species continue to reduce, that would also reduce crop production and supply around the world.
Diet and Nutrition Diversity
Diet diversity and human nutrition are at risk just as well due to the loss of pollinators. Crops that rely on them give us numerous nutrients that we need for a healthy and diverse diet. Preventing micronutrient malnutrition is another reason the human body requires such foods.
Vegetables and fruits including nuts, beans, tomatoes, and apples make up 40 percent of the nutrient supply for us around the globe.
Maintaining the Ecosystems
Until we actually look at the globe as a whole, we do not realize how much one small part contributes to the production of other essential things in life. Such as, not only do these animals play a crucial role in our food chain, they also aid in maintaining vital ecosystem processes.
Meet the Hero’s
There are literally thousands of different species that assist plants and flowers with pollination. There are birds, bats, ants, butterflies, bees, and the list could continue. In the following list is a few of the most vital species in the U.S. and the main ones you most likely have in your yard and garden.
Meet the Bee Family
With over 40,000 various species worldwide and 4,000 of those in the U.S. alone, the bee is the workhorse of the world. This tiny little insect carries and delivers pollen grains to more flowering plants and flowers than any other group.
Moreover, the bees are well custom-built and adapted to this task. The bee hind legs are hairy, and this is their method for carrying pollen. Some of the species have unique sacs on their legs as well that hold pollen as they travel to and fro.
Bees have the gusto and determination to visit hundreds of flowers all in one day on the hunt for pollen and nectar. They are increasingly attracted to blue flowers and bright colored yellow that have a sweet fragrance.
You may also see bees landing on tube-shaped flowers and disappear inside just as I talked about in the beginning.
Bees will land on these type flowers and crawl inside. While the honeybee is the best-known bee, most pollination happens thanks to the wild solitary bees, such as mason bees, which do not live in hives.
The Busy Honeybee (Apis mellifera)
The honeybee initially was a European species that made its way in North America during the colonial times. Today, beekeepers in America tend to over three million honeybee colonies. These bees are generalist, meaning they visit numerous types of flowers, from clover to trees and fruits.
The Bothersome Bumblebee (Bombus spp.)
Everyone knows this bee. It is the large, loud buzzing bee you see flying in the early part of spring (I have had 2 in my house today). What you are seeing is the mighty queen bumblebee freshly out from hibernation.
These ladies have come from their extended hibernation underground and are looking for a new underground hole to nest and for food. You will begin to see the worker bumblebees out grazing later in the summer.
Bumblebees, unlike the honeybee, is capable of a term called “buzz pollination.” That is when it lands on a flower, vibrates extremely fast to stimulate the anther, which releases even more pollen.
The Mighty Mason Bee (Osmia spp.)
Mason bees are throughout the U.S. They are not sociable, and you will find their nest in insect holes in trees, woodpecker drillings, and hollow stems. Their most common buzzing grounds are in towns, suburbs, and woodlands. They are outstanding pollinators of numerous plants.
The Special-Diet Squash Bee (Peponapis spp.)
Squash bees are also not sociable. However, they are well-adapted experts. For example, the old squash bee relies entirely on pumpkin and squash. This species burrows in a nest in the ground that are around ten inches deep and the size of a pencil in diameter.
Meet the Butterfly Family
Butterflies are my favorite. They are hands-down the leader in the globes most beautiful pollinators. In the United States, there are roughly 700 different butterfly species. You will mostly see butterflies around flowers that are colored pink or bright yellow. Moreover, as mentioned above, they like to probe deep in flat-topped flower clusters where they use their long proboscis to search for nectar.
The Majestic Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
The Monarch Butterfly is perhaps the most popular and the best-known butterfly in the world. Although the adult butterfly visits numerous types of flowers, the larval stage ( which is a yellow striped and green caterpillar) feeds nearly exclusive on milkweed.
Each year monarchs migrate between Mexico and the U.S. and have numerous vital places of habitat along their route of migration.
The Zealous Zebra Heliconian Butterfly (Heliconius charitonius)
At times called the “longwing” the zebra heliconias are fascinating in that they not only feed on nectar, but they also collect and consume with their proboscis all the pollen they want. They then digest it and absorb the proteins.
The additional nutrition permits the adult swallowtail butterfly to mate, lay the eggs, and survive for as long as six months.
Meet the Fly Family
Although not many (if any) favorites of anyone, flies pollinate a massive variety of flowers. These include numerous common garden flowers. A large number of Syphis Flies go door-to-door to tiny flowers.
The Spring Loving Syrphid Fly (Syrphidae spp.)
To avoid the birds gobbling them up, numerous species of the remarkable Syrphid Fly family have progressed to act and behave as well, like bees. This family of flies is present and active throughout the growing season but their most popular time to be busy is spring and fall.
Meet The Moth Family
Moths are not as showy as butterflies, however, the number of species in the U.S. totals around 10,000. Moths are night workers and do all their pollinating while all the others do their work in the daylight. They favor light colored flowers that have a strong, sweet smell.
Plants, such as moonflowers, Datura, Nicotiana and an assortment of yellow evening Primroses are their preferred pollinating spots.
The Huge Hawkmoth (Manduca spp.)
Although there is not much to say about these insects that does not take away their strength as a pollinator on this list. The massive Hawkmoths earns its name by being the size of a hummingbird. If you see one, you will definitely recognize it.
The Hawkmoths job is to pollinate the largest native flower in America—the Jimsonweed.
Meet the Hummingbird Family
I cannot talk enough about Hummingbirds. As I was growing up, we had hummingbirds everywhere because my Mom had a keen knack for enticing them to our back deck. Hummingbirds are hands-down most spectacular pollinator on the list.
Although they are common pollinators, their dazzling plumage and spectacular displays in flight make them as much beautiful as necessary. The favorite flower for the tiny bird is red tubular ones that are nectar-rich.
The Roaring Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
These tiny, ruby-throated birds weigh a mere tenth of an ounce, but they often consume 50 percent of their weight in nectar per day. Who does not love watching these marvelous creatures working busily non-stop?
Meet the Bat Family
I saved the most crucial pollinating mammal (and the scariest for last). While it is true that bats are the most important pollinator in the world, most people would want to argue this down. Most bats in America have a diet of insects; but, many feeds on nectar and fruit. They are the prime pollinators of the many desert plants, but especially the cacti.
The Lightning-Fast Lesser Long-Nosed Bat (Leptonycteris curasoae)
One of the primary pollinators of the glorious saguaro cactus in the Lesser-Nosed Bat. As the bat feast on nectar, while migrating, it pollinates the cactus flower. They eat the fruit that the same plants grow and help spread the seeds later in the summer.
This species is no longer than three inches but, it has a tongue as long as its body.
To Wrap This Up
You do not have to live in the country to help preserve our precious, much-needed pollinators. You can plant flowers, keep a beehive or two or invest in lettings others know just how vital these species are to our planet.
Today, more than ever, at a local, national, and global level, we are responsible for taking the specific measure to prevent endangering our little helpers. If we fail at this, our food security as we know it is in jeopardy along with the biodiversity of our ecosystems.
However, if we succeed, we will ensure the ability to feed emerging populations for many generations to come.
I sure hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it for you. Even I learned an immense amount of vital information on all the amazing ways Bees, Butterflies, and other animals ensure our gardens and crops and why we need them.
While you are here, please leave me a comment to let me know what your thoughts are on this topic. Would you also do me a huge favor and share it on your social media to help me help others? I thank you so much for your time you invest in reading my work. Be sure to read the other fantastic articles our team has on this site.