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Pollinator Series: What is Pollination?

April 27, 2017

Ontario has many more pollinators than just the honeybees that make the delicious honey we all love to eat, so I wanted to take some time to share what I've been learning about them.

 

Pollinators are very important to us because their activity pollinates many plants. In a brief definition, pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another to allow fertilization, as shown in the diagram below.

 

 

Pollination happens via two main methods: wind and activity of insects and animals. Wind pollinated plants include all grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, sorghum, triticale, rice, and millet), all other grasses, and many trees as well as other plants such as ragweed. As a general rule, if a plant’s flowers are not showy, that plant is probably wind pollinated. The majority of the remaining plants, including fruits, vegetables, oilseeds, herbs, wild meadow plants, shrubs, and understory plants in the forest are pollinated mainly by insects.

 

To summarize, about 80% of flowering plants are dependent on insects or other animals for pollination, and around 200,000 species of animals and insects act as pollinators. Here in Canada, over $1.2 billion worth of horticultural products rely on insects for pollination. 

 

So who are these insects? Ontario has 5 major families of bees and several other families of pollinators that aren't bees.

 

The bee families: 

Apidae - honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, & squash bees Andrenidae - solitary mining bees

Halictidae - sweat & pearly-banded bees

Megachilidae - leafcutter, orchard & mason bees

Colletidae - cellophane & masked bees

 

The non-bee families:

Syrphidae  -  flower or hover flies
Lepidoptera  -  butterflies such as Monarchs and skippers
Trochilidae  -  hummingbirds

 

The Pollinator Series will feature posts about each of these different pollinator families and their members over the next few weeks.

 

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