“Written by Claudia Farren with assistance from Bill Boothe of Nature in Focus.”
Flower pollinators are in decline. The loss of honeybees around the world due to pests, disease, loss of habitat, pesticides, and changing weather patterns has been widely publicized in the last few years. Native bees and other pollinators are also in decline.
Pollinators are a keystone species group; the persistence of a large number of other species depends upon them. As pollinators disappear, the effect on the health and viability of crops and native plant communities can be disastrous. – Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Pollen allows plants to reproduce by germinating seeds. Wind, humans, and other animals such as bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, and some birds move pollen within a plant (self-pollination—anther and pistil are from the same plant, but not always from the same flower) or between plants (cross-pollination). Pollinators assist flowering plants while in turn the plants provide food for pollinators and their offspring.
What is Pollen?
Pollen is the male sex particles of plants containing protein, vitamins, steroids, lipids and minerals. Not only does it fertilize flowers but also provides food to the eggs [ovule]. Pollen is disseminated by insects, wind, birds, mammals and water.
COLORIZED POLLEN. A RETOUCHED PICTURE FROM DARTMOUTH ELECTRON MICROSCOPE FACILITY. This photo shows pollen from a variety of common plants: sunflower, lily, primrose, morning glory (the big green one in the middle), and castor bean.
- SCARAB BEETLE ON A PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS. Scarab beetles are found throughout the world except for Antarctica. Some common ones are the June bug, the Japanese beetle and the dung beetle. Often brown or black in color, tropical varieties can be iridescent or have a metallic sheen like this one above.
- BEETLE ON ASHE MAGNOLIA. Beetles are the largest order of insects with over 350,000 species. This one—on an Ashe magnolia flower—is covered with pollen. The Ashe magnolia grows well in northern Florida. It is a small tree with big flowers and big leaves and has a sweet smell –all excellent attractants to pollinators.
- TWIN-SPOT SKIPPER ON IRIS. Pollinators are attracted through odor, shape, color, and arrangement of the flowers.
What you can do to help pollinators:
- Plant a pollinator garden of native flowering plants with blooms of varying shapes, colors, and sizes. Have something that blooms every month of the year, not just spring and fall.
- Plant native host and nectar plants for butterflies from the aster family, pea family, various passion vines, and the milkweed family. Some of Florida’s native milkweed host plants for monarch butterflies include: Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), A. perennis (aquatic milkweed), and A. tuberosa (butterfly weed).
- Don’t use pesticides and herbicides.
- Provide nesting sites with bundles of hollow plant stems or PVC pipe in a sheltered area of your garden. Make a brush pile in your yard and leave old tree stumps and dead trees on your property. Do remove hazardous snags.
- Provide a water source. For butterflies and bees place rocks or sand in a bird-bath bowl that is placed on the ground.
- Sponsor or attend a pollinator workshop in your area. Spread the word!
If you would like to get a workshop going in the Panhandle please contact Bill or Marcia Boothe at (850) 643-2583. If you are in another area of Florida contact your local NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service) office at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/fl/contact/
More valuable information on invertebrate protection is at: http://www.xerces.org. Also an excellent source is the book Planting a Refuge for Wildlife – Creating a Backyard Habitat for Florida’s Native Animals.
Thank you to Bill and Marcia Boothe of Nature in Focus for the photos and also the title of this article. Their website is at http://NatureInFocus.com . A direct link to their butterfly and skipper photos is at http://natureinfocus.com/galleries/butterflies/ .
More pollen photos: http://remf.dartmouth.edu/pollen2/pollen_images_3/index.html
Colorized pollen photos: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Misc_pollen_colorized.jpg
More information on native milkweeds can be found at www.monarchwatch.org/bring-back-the-monarchs/milkweed/milkweed-profiles.
Article sources: http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/4DMG/Pests/diggers.htm; http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/MISC/BEES/euro_honey_bee.htm; http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/scarab/; http://www.floridata.com/ref/m/magn_mac_ash.cfm ; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/467948/pollination