5 Pollinators That Aren’t Bees
Save the Bees! I’m sure you have heard that pollinators are on the decline which puts our food production at risk. But what is a pollinator? Are they more than just bees? And how exactly are we supposed to save the pollinators?
Pollinators are animals that visit flowers to drink nectar or eat pollen. While grazing, they transport pollen grains between male and female plants. Why is this important? To make new seeds, plants must be pollinated. Some of the work can be done through self-pollination or by wind, but the majority is accomplished by tiny heroes — pollinators. Of the 1400 crop plants cultivated by humans both for food and industrial purposes, 80% require pollination by animals. In the United States, we rely on pollinators for almost all our fruit and grain crops.
Here is a list of 5 pollinators that aren’t Bees:
- ) Lesser Long-Nosed Bat (endangered) — bat pollination of cactus plants helps maintain a healthy desert ecosystem. In the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, the flowers of the Saguaro cactus open for just one night a year, allowing the elongated muzzle of the Long-Nosed bat to reach deep inside its blooms. The Saguaro is a keystone species, playing a pivotal role in the landscape. They provide nesting spots for red-tailed hawks, Gila woodpeckers, and elf owls. They also provide fruit that feeds a variety of wildlife.
2.) Glorious Scarab Beetle — Not my designation, that’s its real name. With a metallic green body and blue eyes, this scarab beetle is quite lovely. More than just a pretty face though, this beetle helps pollinate at high elevations in the juniper forests of the American southwest. Though they eat juniper leaves, they use flowers for hiding and storing food, which allows them to transport pollen between plants.
3.) Ruby-throated hummingbird — If you live in the Eastern United States or Florida, you’ve probably spotted this hummingbird zooming along the flowers. Tiny (3.5 inches) but mighty, they beat their wings more than 50 times per second. Using their long, needle-like bill, they probe flowers drinking the sweet nectar, which in turn spreads pollen.
4.) Ladybugs — no doubt you’ve encountered more than a few ladybugs. They are a favorite among children and adults. These cute little beetles do double duty; they track pollen and keep crops healthy by eating aphids. A single ladybug can eat 5,000 aphids over its lifetime! Their contribution to plant care is so well known they are even kept by indoor plant enthusiasts as a pesticide-free way to keep houseplants healthy.
5.) Lemurs — here’s one pollinator you might never have guessed — lemurs! On the island of Madagascar, black and white ruffled lemurs are keepers of the traveler’s palm. With the trees growing 40 feet high and having tough flowers, the lemur is the only animal strong enough to climb up and pull apart the blooms.
Now that you know what pollinators are and why they are important to the ecosystem, you are no doubt wondering what you can do to protect these important species. Here are a few easy tips:
- Reduce or eliminate pesticides, which can be harmful to pollinators like bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, and birds.
- Leave dead tree trunks or logs in your yard for nesting bees and beetles.
- Plant pollinator-friendly plants and replace boring laws with pollinator gardens.
- Place shallow dishes of clean water with rocks for perches. This will allow pollinators a much-needed place to drink when it’s dry outside.
- Hang a bee house to give native bees a place to raise their offspring.
- Plant milkweed, a favorite of the monarch butterfly.
- Reduce, reuse, and consume less — all pollinators are dramatically affected by climate change.
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