424c201bf8473f00b7db4d79487d541b

Did you know that 98% of our flowering plant species need animal assistance for pollination?

There are currently around 240,000 such species identified and all, but a smattering, depend on insects for survival. Insects purposely or inadvertently move pollen grains from the anthers to the receptive part of the carpel or pistil of a blossom as part of their activities of foraging for nectar or for other insects. Included in this laundry list of insects are bees (at least 20,000 species), wasps, ants, beetles, flies, moths and butterflies. Most work with “flower constancy” or the habit of transferring pollen to “conspecific” plants. This prevents the likelihood of clogging stigmas of unrelated plants with unusable pollens.

Surprisingly, the biggest group of pollinators is Coleoptera or our beetles. But this is only because Coleoptera is also our most numerous Order of insects. They take care of 88% of the pollination of the world’s species of flowering plants. Although they can see color, they rely more on scent as an attractant. Fruit scents are a favorite. They are particularly attracted to large bowled blossoms and will even chew their way through to its sex organs, if necessary. Since they often defecate in the process, they are tagged as “mess and soil” pollinators.

Tumbling_Flower_Beetlesm

Tumbling Flower Beetle

greenfigbeetlesm

Green Fig Beetle

bumblebeesm

Bumble Bee

metalicsweatbeesmMetallic Sweat Beetle

beeflysm

Bee Fly

hoverflysm

Hover Fly

One of the more comical in this huge order is the Metallic Green Fig Beetle (Continus texana). Over an inch long, it lumbers along through the air on short flights. No long destinations here. One wonders how it maintains altitude at all. Named for its host food, it is also frequently seen pollinating such plants as Buddleya or Butterfly Bush. Another favorite of this Order is the Lady Bird Beetle or the Coccinellidae sub order. We have around 450 species in North America alone and they come in colors from yellow to deep red, often with a pattern of dots denoting the species, as well as more drab colors or even solid black. Aside from its well known duties as foragers of soft bellied sucking insects, it is an important pollinator in the garden.

Two others worth mentioning are the Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci) and the Tumbling Flower Beetle or Pintail Beetle (5000 species). The adult phase of the carpet beetle moves outside to enjoy the nectar of your garden plants and inadvertently pollinates as it moves about. It especially enjoys crape myrtle, spirea and buckwheat. Be sure to check cut flowers before bringing them inside. The Tumbling Flower Beetle is another comical character due to its habit of tumbling, in an out-of-control manner, when you try to capture it. This is true even for a photo! They simply disappear.

One must mention bees in this discussion. Of course, the honey bee is what always comes to mind with the mention of “bee”, but did you know that there are over 20,000 named species of bees and we are still counting! To name just a few you may have in your yard and don’t even know it are Sweat bees, Digger bees, Carpenter bees, Mason bees, Leaf Cutter bees, Andrena bees~shall I go on? They are all pollinators. A particular favorite of mine is the Bumble Bee. Bumble bees (49 species) are called such due to the buzzing noise they make while working. What is actually happening is a process called “sonication” or the grabbing on to the anthers of the host plant and “buzzing” their flight muscles to get the pollen to release. They especially like berry blossoms as well as willow, lupine and tomatoes. Like the honey bee and no other, bumble bees are social and live in colonies with a queen in charge.

sevenspotladybeetlesm

Seven Spot Lady Beetle

whitelinedsphinxsm

White Lined Sphinx

skippersm

Skipper

monarchsm

Monarch Butterfly

morningcloaksm

Morning Cloak

threadwastedwaspsm

Thread Wasted Wasp

Wasps are closely related to bees but without hairs. They are extremely important in the garden as pest controllers. Do not ban these creatures. Aside from the fact that the adults need nectar for survival and that means pollination for the plant, they perform the duty of eradicating all manner of pests. In fact, almost every pest in nature has a wasp that preys on or paratisizes it. The wasp will immobilize the host adult or larva with a sting and then lay its eggs. As the eggs mature they feed on the contents of the host and eventually emerge as wasp larvae to begin the process again. Wasps we see in our gardens include Sand wasps, Paper wasps and Potter wasps. These are black and yellow in different patterns with the Potter wasp carrying the most black. Digger wasps are iridescent black with long wings. Mud Dabbers and Thread Waisted wasps both have a very thin connection between the abdomen and thorax. Mud Dabbers are a main enemy of the Black and Brown Widows.

Flies are distinguished from wasps and bees by the possession of just one set of wings. They are important pollinators of flowers with less of a sweet scent. In fact, for adult males, nectar is absolutely essential to the diet. The Tachinid fly paratisizes true bugs such as the stink bug, squash bug and leaf footed bug. This fly is often confused with the house fly. The Hover Fly or Syrphid fly is a delightful and beautiful little creature that likes to investigate every thing about you and is one of the few flies that can not only hover but fly backwards. They feast on aphid honeydew as well as nectar and if the counts are kept high enough in your garden, their larval form can control 70-100% of your aphids. Another beauty is the Bee Fly. This is a larger black fly with beautiful window pane type wings in a variety of patterns.

The popular Order of Lepidoptera brings up the rear but is certainly not of lesser importance. Butterflies and moths are why a lot of us have gardens. Moths contain a vastly larger number of species than butterflies and generally work at night. Both have an interesting structure (proboscis) that allows them to suck up liquid nectar as if through a straw. It coils and retracts when not in use somewhat akin to a watch spring. Although it is popular lore that they prefer flat surfaced blossom clusters, I have often seen them nectaring funnel shaped flowers. Common species we see in our gardens here are Fiery Skipper, Monarch, Mourning Cloak, several varieties of Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Cloudless Sulphur, Marine Blue and Hairstreak. White Lined Sphinx Moth (Hummingbird Moth) will travel through here in the spring. Watch out or you will bump into one.

So now what does the term “pollination” bring to mind? It is quite a bit more complex than a picture of a European Honey Bee buzzing around, no?

MeredithFrench2
Meredith French has been a professional photographer for 30 years. She was accepted into Master Gardeners in 2005 and does public speaking for them. She also writes on a variety of garden topics and is a regular contributor to California Garden. She often features the insects and other wildlife of her own certified habitat garden. Many of these images are for sale at meredithfrenchphoto.com.
 

Plant Care Reminders

Rose Monthly Plant Care Midwest
Roses Proven Winners

Rose (Rosa hybrid 'Home Run') - Monthly Plant Care Calendar - Midwest

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Clivia miniata Monthly Plant Care
Perennials Ron Vanderhoff

Clivia miniata (Lily - Kaffir) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Cymbidium Orchids - Care in southern…

52337 Walter Andersen Nursery
Cymbidium Orchid Care
Cymbidium Orchids are so rewarding. Cymbidium Orchids come in so many colors and shade,…

Victorian Rosemary (Westringia…

8240 Steve Brigham
Westringia fruticosa Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Nectarine (Prunus persica var.…

8636 Julie Bawden-Davis
Nectarine Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Gardening Articles

Dirty Gardening Shoes
Intrinsic Gardening Ron Vanderhoff

Garden Resolutions you will NEVER Keep

“Resolve, and thou art free“ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Rosa hybrid 'Barbra Streisand'
Soil Ralph (Jack) Shoultz

Feeding the Microbes in Your Soil

by Jack Shoultz-Chairman, Good Earth R.O.S.E. Committee (www.OrganicRoseCare.org)

Puzzle #9 - All About Bees

5844
All About Bees Crossword Puzzle
Print this and take a few minutes and have some fun trying to figure this crossword…

Phil Tacktill - Southwest

21205
Phil Tacktill
Region: Southwest

What’s the Name of that Plant? Is this an African Daisy, a Torch Daisy, a Sun Spot Daisy, a Flame Daisy or just a” daisy”?

32900
African Daisy
If you are a backyard gardener, your introduction to plant names probably came from plant…

Plant Recommendations

Jim Threadgill
Plant Recommendations jim threadgill

California Natives - Southern California

Jim Threadgill's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite California Natives.
Cerastium tomentosum
Plant Recommendations Taylor Murphy

Perennials with Silver Foliage - Southern California

Taylor Murphy's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Perennials with Silver Foliage.

Shrubs & Perennials with Red Color -…

18923 Taylor Murphy
Loropetalum chinense
Taylor Murphy's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Shrubs & Perennials with Red Color.

Shrubs or Small Trees for Birds &…

11590 Maureen Austin
Arbutus unedo
Maureen Austins' Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Shrubs or Small Trees for Birds &…

Fruits & Vegetables - Oregon

4772 Dawn Hummel
Blueberries
Dawn Hummel's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Fruits & Vegetables for Oregon.

Featured Plant Care

Carrot Plant Care Reminders

Carrot - Scarlet Nantes (Daucus carota var. sativus 'Scarlet Nantes') Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Edibles
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Fucshia hybrid Monthly Plant Care Reminders

Fuchsia (Fuchsia hybrida) - Monthly Plant Care Reminders

in Shrubs
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Loropetalum chinense Monthly Plant Care

Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Shrubs
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Organic Rose Monthly Plant Care

Rose (Rosa Hybrid) Organic Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Roses
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Latest Articles

Peach Leaf Curl

Peach Leaf Curl - Information Hub

Peach leaf curl is a common problem found on leaves of Peaches and Nectarines (and their…
Avocado Information Hub

Avocado - Growing and Plant Care Information Hub

in Edibles
We're bringing relevant information about Avocados (Persea americana) to one fantastic…

Popular Articles

Using the Mulch for Home Gardeners

Home Gardener: Using All The Great Features on the Mulch

You Can Use The Great Features on the Mulch For Free!
Baseball Field Maintenance

Baseball Field Maintenance - A General Guide for Fields of All Levels

in Lawn
More great baseball field resources can be found here (including a pdf version of this…
Queen Palm Care & Use

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) Care & Use

in Trees
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads is a family owned and operated business established in 1977
Microgreens

What are Microgreens and How to Grow Them

in Edibles
Microgreens are tiny leafed vegetables that are grown from seed and require very little…

User Guides (Slide)

Popular Recommendations (Slide)