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It isn’t only butterflies and bees that pollinate a garden

Everyone knows that bees and butterflies are pollinators; they are crucial to the survival of many plants. You may not be aware that many other creatures and insects do the same job. Birds, bats, moths, beetles, ants and even flies are involved in the scheme, each with their own job and the equipment to do it. Fruits, flowers and vegetables all have their own highly evolved advertising specialties designed to ensure their propagation and survival.

From the viewpoint of a bird, bat or insect a garden is a veritable metropolis of beckoning neon signs and billboards advertising its different attractions. Flower petals attract with colour, shape, size and fragrance; they’re the flashing neon that draws pollen transporters to the nectar they feed on. The flower’s stalk is the base of the sign; it holds the ad up where it can be spotted and keeps it from being trodden on by passers-by (like crawling insects and human or animal feet).

As a bee sees it: bees are beckoned by ultraviolet light in the flower’s sign. Bees are exquisitely designed to carry pollen from one nectar source to another. Statically charged hairs on their abdomens brush the anther, or male part of the plant, that produces pollen, and help hold the pollen until they brush against the sticky stigma, or female part. At this point the pollen travels down the stigma’s tube to reach the plant’s ovaries, where it becomes a fertilised seed.

Plants such as the tomato that store pollen inside rather than on top of the anther have to be given a good shake to release the pollen through the stamen’s pores. This is where bumblebees come in; they land on the flower and the ‘supersonic’ vibration of their wings knocks it loose. Butterflies, on the other hand, taste with receptors on their feet that detect the moisture and nutrients they require. Plants with multiple flowerettes make good sipping stations for butterflies.


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