Insects have an exoskeleton, a three-part body, and three pairs of jointed legs which make a total of 6 legs. Insects are the most diverse group of animals, they include more than a million species and so it’s not a surprise that there are some insects that are able to pollinate flowers.
So What Insects Pollinate Flowers? Pollinating insects include but are not limited to:
- Pollen Wasps.
These are only some of the insects that pollinate flowers we’ll discuss more insects later in this article, but first, let’s get a basic understanding of what is pollination.
What Is Pollination?
Pollination is when the pollen grains from a male anther of a flower are transferred to a female stigma so that the flowers can produce offspring in the form of seeds.
To define pollination in simpler terms, it is basically how plants reproduce.
But how can a plant reproduce if it can’t move? Here comes the part of the Pollinators.
What Are Pollinators?
Pollinators are animals which aid the plant in its reproduction cycle, they carry the pollen grains from a male anther of a flower and transfer it to female stigma so that the plants can reproduce. Insects are great pollinators, and in this article, we’ll discuss more about the Insect Pollinators.
Insect pollinators carry out Entomophily, which is basically a complex word that means insect pollination. Insects not only pollinate flowering plants but also other plants, but these other plants and the flowering plants themselves have a couple of common characteristics, these plants attract the insects with the use of bright colors and scents, which attract the insects because they think that they will get some nectar.
Why Do Plants Need Pollinators?
Pollinators are quite important for the plants as it helps in their reproduction. Millions of years ago, plants were dependant on air and water for pollination, because there was only a little chance that the pollen grains would be deposited in the stigma of a female flower, plants had to produce lots and lots of pollen grains. Over time plants began to adapt themselves more and more so that they could get pollinated by insects and other animals. Due to this flowering plants evolved, and in order to attract insects, they started producing bright colors and fragrances.
Therefore, Plants require pollinators for the most effective and efficient pollination.
What Insects Are More Suitable For Pollination?
Over time plants have evolved so that they can be better pollinated by insects, but there are some insects that are able to better pollinate a plant due to their physical characteristics. Insects that are hairy can better hold on to the pollen grains, then those who do not have hair. For Example, bees are hairy and they are excellent pollinators.
How Have Plants Adapted To Insect Pollinators?
Plants have evolved over centuries so that they can be better pollinated, earlier they were suited to wind and air pollination, but now most of them have made adaptations so that they are better suited to pollination by insects. These adaptations include:
- Increased Pollen Grain Size.
- Bright Colors.
Some plants have even created a hook so that they can better latch on to insects and pollinators. Some plants have even positioned their pollen grains, such that when the insect is feeding on the nectar, the pollen grains are attached to the insect.
Common Insects And How They Pollinate
In this section we’ll discuss the process by which some common insects, such as bees, butterflies, beetles etc. pollinate.
Bees are excellent pollinators because most of their life is spent in search of pollen and nectar, they need this for their survival and the survival of their progeny. As pollen extraction is a quite energy consuming procedure, bees are rewarded with nectars by the plants.
The way the pollen is carried by bees is this, as they are feeding on the nectars their hair attracts the pollen grains due to electrostatic forces. And as most single bees only feed on nectars from single plant species, it is much more likely for the plant to reproduce due to the transfer of pollen grains.
The most common characteristics of flowers that are pollinated by plants are bright-colored petals, a lot of nectar, fragrance, and symmetry of the petals.
Butterflies are also good pollinators, but they are not as good as bees when it comes to pollination. They visit various flowers during the day and are attracted most towards plants that have pink, mauve and purple flowers.
Butterflies also have long proboscides that they can probe into tubular flowers, and while they are feeding on its nectar, pollen grains are attached to the butterflies’ body.
Butterflies favor the plants that provide landing platforms, have nectar hidden deep inside, and are brightly colored.
Beetles are also important pollinators, but they are limited to certain older plant species such as magnolias. Beetles are considered dirty pollinators because they eat the flower petals and even defecate inside it. Nevertheless, they have an important role in pollination and were one of the first insects to pollinate flowers.
Moths pollnate in a similar way to butterflies, with the use of their proboscides and they also favour tubular plants. They are mostly attracted to night blooming plants. Hawkmoths, on the other hand, tend to vist larger flowers from which they extract pollen as well as nectars.
These are all the important insect pollinators, some other insect pollinators include wasps, they tend to visit flowers but they are less effective pollinators when compared to their bee cousins. Ants also pollinate but very rarely. Flies, Midgies, and Mosquitoes are also quite effective insect pollinators.
There are many insects that pollinate flowers but the most important ones are moths, butterflies, bees, and beetles. There are many characteristics of an insect which make them suitable for pollination, such as hair. Furthermore, plants have also made certain adaptations so that they are able to attract insects, these adaptations include bright colors and fragrance.