I was out for a walk with Ari yesterday when we happened upon a flowering plant swarming with flying insects. We stopped to watch what I told him were ‘pollinators’, in fact we sat there for about 30 minutes talking pollination and watching the swarm of flies, bees and wasps (being a former Bee Lab employee I’m hardwired to nerd out about this stuff). In the course of our study Ari asked what the ‘pollinators’ were going to do with the pollen. Excellent question son.
There are actually 2 kinds of pollinators:
Accidental Pollinators: These are things like flies, butterflies, boy bees, beetles, wasps, etc. just come to the flower to get a drink of the sugary liquid the plants make called nectar. While they are drinking, some of the pollen gets stuck to their legs and other parts of their bodies. Then, when they go to another flower to get another drink they accidentally drop some of the pollen off and end up picking up pollen from that plant. Mixing up the pollen like this helps the flowers make seeds.
Active Pollinators: These collect pollen on purpose, most of these are girl bees. Bees come to the flowers to get a drink of nectar and also to collect pollen to feed to their babies. The mom bee brings the pollen back to her nest and mixes it with nectar to make a little pollen cake. When her baby hatches out of its egg it eats the pollen cake so it can grow into an adult bee. When bees fly around collecting pollen, they pick up and drop off pollen at different flowers, helping the flowers make seeds as well.