Wednesday, April 9. 2008
A couple of weeks ago I was riding my bike and looking at all of the masses of native wildflowers growing out there and I got to wondering how the all come to be pollinated. There are a couple of ways it could happen. The pollen could spread by wind or it could be transferred around by animals (usually insects, but also bats and hummingbirds).
If spread by the wind, I reasoned that the flowers would have to produce a lot of pollen and that it would be easily dislodged, so I got off of my bike, held my hand behind a flower and blew on it. No pollen came off. Then I rapped the base of it with my finger and no pollen came off. So I reasoned that it must require the assistance of a pollinator and started looking around for one. I didn't have to look far before I noticed a whole lot of what I had just assumed were some sort of little "hoverflies". Upon looking closer I began to wonder if they were actually flies or bees. Since then I've looked at quite a few of them and found that we have a wonderful array of tiny insect pollinators. Honeybees are not native to North America, but there are many other kinds of wild bees and they are out there right now, today. Go take a look.
Meanwhile, here's a sampling for your enjoyment. One of these days I'll have to start learning more about pollinators. Without them we wouldn't have these wonderful shows of wildflowers after the rains.
This first one seems to be the most common kind:
Look! Here he is again:
This one is similar but different. Look him poking his proboscus down into a tiny nectar-pot of a flower.
Here's another one and you can see his/her proboscus, too. What a treat: I learned what a "proboscus" is while playing Cootie when I was a little kid, but I rarely get to use the word. Today I got to use it twice.
If you click that last picture you can see a larger image. Take a look at the flower this bee is standing on. If you look closely you can see that it is really a massive cluster of little flowers, each with petals, stamens, pistils, and a dab of nectar at the bottom to pay off the pollinator. Beauty is nice, but bribery gets things done. You can also see that they open in a progression from the outside towards the center. I guess that is probably an insurance policy so a day or two of bad weather can't occur on "pollination day" and ruin their chance to reproduce. There are probably other reasons as well. Nature is wonderfully complex.
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