Putting the Pollen in Pollinator

Last week was proclaimed as Pollinator Week in the State of Michigan. As stated in the governor’s proclamation: “Pollination plays a vital role in our national forests and grasslands, which provide forage, fish, wildlife, timber, water, mineral resources, and recreational opportunities as well as enhanced economic development opportunities for communities …” We at Dow Gardens know the value of pollination.

The big idea is that pollen is produced by a plant usually flowers as a part of sexual reproduction. Pollen contains the male genetic material! Pollination is a process by which this male genetic material is transferred to a location that will allow fertilization of the egg to make a seed. On this blog we mostly speak of bees as pollinators, but many mechanisms can transmit pollen: wind, water, gravity, moths, bats, butterflies, flies, etc.

Why would an animal help with pollination? Essentially they are an unwilling participant. Bees for instance are drawn to the flower by nectar and use the nectar and pollen both as sources of nutrition. As the bees visit various flowers, they may leave behind the pollen that they picked up at the last flower – therefore pollinating the flower, AND they also move pollen that they get on their heads into pollen sacs on their back legs to take back to the hive. (See the photo of the bee with pollen sacks stuck to her back legs)

Once back at the hive, the pollen is stored for later use. Pollen isn’t only yellow! The flower it comes from determines the color of the pollen. What surprised me was the variety of colors in our hive!

Different plants produce different colors of pollen for example: rhododendrons and horse chestnut produce red pollen, dandelion pollen is a dark orange, oak is olive green, Hazel and poppies are variations on the color grey. The variety is fascinating and the light orange pollen in the photo could be from our own apple orchard.

Value the pollinators in your yard and consider help them by providing flowers to forage.

Join us for Viva la Pollination!
Join us at Dow Gardens on Friday, August 23 from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm, as we look at and celebrate pollinators.