Meet nature’s pollinators

By Brandie Piper

Published June 29, 2015 on Discover.Monsanto.com.

This is the third article in a series on the importance of bees and pollinators to agriculture and food production. The first article in the series focused on the start of pollinator events in the United States and how they work, while the second focused on the importance of bees in farming.

Animals pollinate about 75 percent of flowering plants, and they help to produce about one-third of all foods and beverages consumed by humans. There are approximately 200,000 species of pollinators, including honey bees, butterflies, bats, and beetles, and it’s important to help maintain the health of these animals.

The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign encourages you to plant habitats in your yard that are welcoming to pollinators, with plenty of nectar, pollen and habitat. They also encourage you to engage in the pollination conversation with neighbors, friends, and schools.

Here’s a look at some popular pollinators and the plants they target.

Honey bees

One of the most important pollinators is the honey bee. Beekeepers often transport colonies across the country to help pollinate crops that might otherwise be under-pollinated. Right now honey bees are pollinating alfalfa, clover, and sunflower in North and South Dakota and blueberries and cranberries in Michigan and Wisconsin.

“Honey bees are valuable for pollination for the foods we eat, which is about a third,” said Jerry Hayes, bee health lead for Monsanto’s Beeologics. Pollination is attributed to the relationship between beekeepers, honey bees, and farmers.

Learn more about ways to help the honey bee population through Pollinator Partnership.

Butterflies

Another busy pollinator is the butterfly, which pollinates many wildflowers in North America. Because they’re not able to pick up as much pollen as a bee, they tend to favor flowers that are clustered together, such as goldenrods and Spirea.

Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed, which they also use as a food source. Milkweed growth has declined in recent years, so Monsanto is collaborating with non-profits, universities, researchers, and others to find ways to improve and protect monarch habitat across North America.

To learn about Monsanto’s commitment to protecting the monarch butterfly, visit Discover.Monsanto.com.

Bats
Bats are pollinators of the night, and an important resource for crops in warm-weather climates such as Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

The bats favor fragrant flowers that are white or have a pale color and are open at night. They can pollinate up to 30 flowers each night, and feed on the insects found inside the flowers as well as the nectar. According to the Wildlife Habitat Management Institute, up to 40 percent of bat species in the United States are endangered.

Some of the crops dependent upon bat pollination are avocados, dates, figs, mangos, bananas, guavas, peaches, agaves and cashews.

Beetles
Beetles are responsible for pollinating close to 90 percent of the world’s 240,000 flowering plants, which make them nature’s largest group of pollinators.

Beetles typically target white, dull white, or green bowl-shaped flowers with strong fruity odors. They are important pollinators for magnolias and spicebush, and also enjoy pond lilies, goldenrods and Spirea.

For more information about pollinators and how to get involved in habitat preservation, visit Pollinator.org.

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