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Test Your Knowledge About Pollinators!
1. What is pollination?
a. A butterfly eating nectar from a flower
b. Pollen moving from one flower to another
c. Bees making honey
d. None of the above.
2. How is pollen moved from one flower to another?
d. All of the above.
3. Which of these animals is a pollinator (moves pollen from one flower to another)?
d. None of the above
4. Which of the following foods are produced by pollination?
d. All of the above
5. What can you do to attract pollinators in your yard, schoolyard and community?
a. Plant a garden with native wildflowers
b. Ask adults to reduce the use of pesticides
c. Leave dead trees or limbs near your yard
d. All of the above
Plant a Pollinator Garden
Flowering plants depend on pollinators such as bees and hummingbirds in order to reproduce and create seeds and fruits. Just like all living things, pollinators live in habitats that provide them with food, water, shelter and protection. Some pollinator habitats are lost when new buildings and roads are built. By planting a pollinator garden, you can help pollinators, the plants that depend on them, and the people who eat the plants!
Planning the garden:
- Ask permission. Find a site where you are allowed to plant.
- What’s already there? Do you already have a garden at your home, schoolyard or neighborhood? You may be able to add plants to an existing garden.
- Size: Your garden can be as big as a backyard or as small as a few potted plants.
- Sun: The plants will need plenty of sunshine (at least six hours a day).
- Find helpers: Ask family, friends and classmates if they would like to help plant the garden. After it is planted, the garden may require watering, weeding and other tasks, which are easier with many hands to help.
What to plant:
- Which pollinators do you want to attract? Most pollinators like specific types of flowers. If you would like to attract many different pollinators, plant a variety of plants that have a lot of nectar and pollen in their flowers. If you would like to attract one or two specific pollinators, look at this pollinator preference chart to see which flowers they prefer.
- Use native plants: Native plants are those that naturally live in your area and were not introduced from other regions of the country or world. Native plants are the most useful to pollinators and the surrounding ecosystem.
- Bloom times: By selecting plants which bloom at different times of the year, pollinators will get the most our of your garden.
- Most pollinator larva eat leaves, so make sure your garden contains grasses, weeds and wildflowers.
- Pollinators also need water, such as bird baths or mud puddles.
- Try not to use pesticides or weed-killers, since these can harm pollinators.
- Pollinators also need places such as twigs, brush, small piles of leaves to build their nests and to stay in during winter.
Top image: Monarch butterfly, courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Bottom image: wildflowers, courtesy of Indiana Department of Transportation, www.in.gov.
Not all pollinators look alike, and not all pollinators eat alike. Many pollinators have evolved to eat nectar (and sometimes pollen) from specific flowers. And the flowers depend on them.
For example, hummingbirds have long, thin beaks that can reach nectar in the bottom of long, thin flowers. Their favorite color flowers are red and orange. They flap their wings quickly to hover in place, so they do not need broad petals to land on.
Bees have a preference for brightly colored flowers with strong, sweet scents and large areas to land and walk on.
Nocturnal pollinators such as bats and moths like pale or white flowers that blossom at night.
Learn more about pollinators and their preferences.
Image courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.
Learn fun facts about pollination!
- Honey bees are the most important pollinator for crops in the United States, including fruit. A single honey bee can visit 5,000 flowers in one day!
- Some bats are pollinators too. The lesser long-nosed bat pollinates saguaro cactus flowers in the southwestern U.S. The banana bat in South America pollinates – you guessed it, banana flowers!
- An estimated one to three bites of food we eat come from pollinating plants!
- Worldwide, there are about 1,400 crops grown for food or plant products. 80% of these require pollination by animals.
Top image of honey bee by Rob Flynn, courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service; middle image of lesser long-nosed bat courtesy of the National Park Service; bottom image of a peach tree by Keith Weller, courtesy of USDA Agricultural Research Service.
Learn more about pollinators and pollination!
Citizen Science Projects
- Bee Hunt take photos of bees, identify the species, and submit your photos online
- Journey North monitor the migration of monarch butterflies, hummingbirds and other animals
- The Great Sunflower Project Help scientists monitor wild bee populations by planting sunflowers and other bee-friendly plants
Image courtesy of New York Department of Conservation.
A Distance Learning Adventure
Gather your parents, teachers and classmates to watch one of the following live online webcasts:
- May 12, 2010: Join Pollinator LIVE at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time for the Insect Zoo in Your Schoolyard.
- September 2010: Honey Bees, Native Bees, and More.
- April 13, 2011: Nature’s Partners: Pollinators, Plants, and People, live from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.
Image courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.
1) b. Pollination is the process of pollen grains moving from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma flower in order for a plant to reproduce. Through pollination, seeds and fruits grow. Without pollination, there would be no apples, grapes, oranges, walnuts, wheat or tomatoes!
2) d. Pollen in transferred from one flower to another through wind, water or pollinators – insects and other animals. Most pollinators move pollen from one flower to another by accident when they visit a flower to eat nectar or rest.
3) c. Common pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and hummingbirds. Some pollinators are more unusual. On islands near New Zealand, geckos moves pollen between flax plants. In Madagascar, lemurs pollinate the traveler’s tree. Right here in the United States, there’s a bat that pollinates the saguaro cactus!
4) d. All of the above. All fruits grow as a result of pollination, including the cocoa beans that chocolate is made from. As a matter of fact, every 1 to 3 bites of food we take are from pollinating plants! There are about 1,400 crops grown around the world, and nearly 80% are from pollinating plants.
5) d. To attract pollinators to your yard or community, you need flowers, of course! Plant a variety of wildflowers that are native to your area. Eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides, which kill insect pollinators as well as pests. Pollinators such as bees also need places to nest, such as dead branches or brush.