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What is a pollinator species? How does pollination work?

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

a bee on a yellow flower

[Article by Melanie Franke]

Most individuals when asked are able to correctly identify what a common example of a pollinator is and what their function may be. The most common one identified is likely to be a honeybee. But did you know that there are many other insects and even mammals that take on this important role?

Insect pollinators includes a variety of bees such as the honey bee but also include solitary species of bees, and bumblebees. I found out recently that the honeybee is not the one that is responsible for pollinating my abundance of tomato plants this summer but it is a native bee who busily help with the fruiting of my plants. Other insect pollinators include the following: pollen wasps, ants, flies, mosquitos, butterflies, moths, flower beetles, slugs, and even gnats. Vertebrate pollinators include mainly birds and bats but possums, rodents and some lizards also pollinate. Humans carry out artificial pollination. Pollination can also occur with the help of the wind, water and even plants themselves. Self pollination occurs within a closed flower.

Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant (the anther) to a female part of a plant (the stigma) which enables the fertilization and the production of seeds.

Few of the general public pay attention to the fact that native bee and other pollinator populations are in decline unfortunately. That is where the work of the Pollinator Pathway Project becomes increasingly important to spread the word and increase and maintain the habitat for these hardworking species. Most native North American bees are solitary, the exception being the bumblebee. Similar to honeybees, bumblebees’ nest in family groups called colonies. These native pollinators are social bees and are responsible for pollinating a variety of vegetable and fruit crops, flower and forest plants. We have over 400 different types of bees in Ontario and new species are still being discovered. Honey Bees are not a native species and were imported in the early 1600’s to North America. I could write a whole chapter on our Ontario native bees but a few names of our native bees include: mining bees, sweat bees, leaf cutter bees and carpenter bees. Protecting our native bees’ species is a key part of protecting our province’s biodiversity. Each bee species is critical for the pollination of crops, backyard gardens and wildflowers. They provide valuable food for other wildlife and are an important cog in Ontario’s ecosystems.

Native pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds can be supported by eliminating spraying any pesticides in your yard or garden. Encourage your friends and neighbours to do the same by spreading information and sharing your efforts on social media. Provide a clean water source such as a pond or regularly cleaned bird bath. Plant native plants and wildflowers on your property. Don’t clean them up until late in the fall season. Finally leave a patch in your yard or garden wild, even through the winter, as this will offer valuable year round protection and winter habitats for a variety of species.

Connect with Pollinator Pathways Project



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