It’s National Pollinator Week!

Once again, It’s time to celebrate the little animals that…facilitate plant sex by moving plant sperm around.

Pollinator Week Logo

I’ve discovered over time that a lot of people don’t actually know what pollination is, other than it’s something that’s needed to get fruit. That’s certainly true; apples, bananas, blueberries, melons, peaches, pumpkins, almonds, and a whole bunch of other plants need to be pollinated for us to get the food we like.

That’s the what of pollination.  But the WHY seems to be left out.  Plants need lovin’ too, and the options for them to get their freak on are somewhat limited.  It’s tough to “throw a leg over” when you don’t actually have any legs.

Pollination = sex for plants.  There. I’ve said it.

Sure, you can toss your pollen out on the wind and hope it lands in the right place.  And for a lot of plants, evergreens in particular, this works just fine.   Most spring days my car looks like there was a pine tree bukakke fest.

That methodology results in a lot of wasted gametes (plant sperm) though, so for nearly all flowering plants, insects or other pollinators are needed for plant nookie.   Think of bees and other pollinators as little flying plant wangs.

Most flowers contain both male and female sexual parts, and while plants can self-pollinate, it’s a lot more enjoyable productive to have a second (or third…or fourth…) party involved. Cross-pollination also reduces inbreeding.

Plants attract insect pollinators with lovely colorful displays, special smells, and gifts of nectar or extra pollen that makes a nice snack. And in return plants receive a sort of sexual courier service.  This partnership has been going on for over 100 million years, and has resulted in amazing modifications in both plants and animals.

Without pollinators, some of the finest things in life would not exist:


All brought to you by a bug-facilitated bonk.

The Xerces Society has many free and wonderful publications on how to plant habitat for pollinators. Why not check those out and establish a horizontal hula zone in your backyard?  And don’t forget to give your sweetheart a bouquet of plant genitalia.



Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. Good work bug_girl. I love that there is a whole week for this.
    In Australia, ( as you know ) we have or had many native pollinators that are having a hard time competing with the European Honeybee. Many insecticides are dealing a blow to them as well.
    I remember as a younger man being so fascinated by the Biprestids around our bush districts, especially my favs the Temogs ( Temognatha ). Let’s all celebrate our local pollinators.
    Love your work.

  2. I’m sure bug_girl would like us to remember also that bees, while they are first thing we think of when we think pollinator, are far from the only animals that pollinate.
    Flies, ants, moths and butterflies, hummingbirds, monkeys, and even bats can be pollinators, as can any number of other unlikely suspects.
    It’s just cool to remember that. :)

    1. There’s a marketing technique named after me? I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the other hand, I love bees. And chocolate, coffee and tequila.
      The Boston Museum of Science has a great interactive exhibit about bees in its Discovery Center (hi Sara), a special area designed for kids under 5. Just by chance (or Cosmic Interconnectedness), I’ve got a picture (on my desk next to my monitor) of my niece, age about 3, dressed in a bee costume (black and yellow vest) and a bee hat (actually, a pink Red Sox hat with a “B” on the front), extracting pollen from some giant flowers and bringing it back to the hive. She played bee for hours, pollinating, making honey, caring for eggs and larvae and learning all about bees. Strongly recommended for any junior bug_girls (and bug_boys.)

  3. I saw a programme about the mighty banana a few weeks ago. It might have been on the One Show on BBC1. I learned that the most popular banana type has no seeds and that all banana trees of that particular species are clones (cuttings).

    Hence, no need for pollination but a very large need for people with sharp implements. Also an evolutionary dead-end and susceptible to be entirely wiped out by disease.

  4. It has been a blah day. Reading your article just but a huge smile on my face. It is an informative and highly entertaining piece of writing.

    “pine tree bukakke” lol


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