Pollinators: A Match Made in Evolution

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Video Chat Recording

Questions they didn’t get to from the chat:

Which pollinators perceive UV signals? What is the theory around the development of ultraviolet “pointers” that bees receive?

Bees can see ultraviolet, as well as blue and yellow pigments. Butterflies can also see ultraviolet! Many plant taxa reflect UV light, some at petal tips, some at the base of petals making a ‘bullseye’ pattern. These floral traits were driven by natural selection between the plant and pollinator. The pollinator had some variation in offspring which exhibited a photoreceptor sensitive to UV wavelengths and some flowers in a population exhibited some UV reflectance. This likely led to increased pollen transfer and ultimately increased likelihood of reproduction for plants with these genes. Insects likely benefited from this contrast and had better survival and reproduction though effectively obtaining food.

Thus begins the co-evolutionary escalation cycle leading to the development of traits that benefit both parties involved!


Do moth pollinated plants regulate when the scent they produce is strongest?

Yes, they do regulate their scent. For most, the scent is strongest when they first open at night.


Are native bees struggling like honeybees? What characteristics distinguish bumblebees?

Native bees are not at risk of colony collapse disorder like social bees but our native solitary bees are dealing with habitat loss, fragmentation, negative effects of pesticide use and climate change. What can you do? Plant native plants, create native bee nesting sites, avoid pesticides and support organizations that advocate for policy changes that protect these species.


How can you increase the chances of seeing a moth pollinating a flower at night?

Scope out a flower you think is moth-pollinated (white color, long corolla tube) during the day so that you can visit it once the sun goes down. Soap plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) is a great example of a moth-pollinated California native plant that grow in our area. For best viewing, it may be worth using a camera with “night vision” capabilities, like a wildlife camera.


Are there specialists that collect only blue pollen?

Yes, there are bees that will collect pollen from flowers with blue pollen (such as our local Gilia tricolor) at least for some period of time.

These pollinators may forage on other flowers/pollen when these blue pollen species are no longer in bloom.

Agricultural Pollinators

According to Ag Pollinators, there are many different pollinators. They are responsible for pollinating a wide number of crops; examples include fruits like blueberries and strawberries; vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers; orchard and grove crops like apples, almonds and citrus; and other crops such as sunflowers and soybeans. Pollinators also have a positive impact on beef, livestock, and dairy industries as they help pollinate forages and hay crops. Major agricultural pollinators include:

  1. Wild honey bees. Native honey bees are the most commonly known pollinator. They are ‘volunteers’ that work tirelessly pollinating a variety of crops. Recent problems with colony collapse and bee pests have put the wild honey bee population in danger, leading to many initiatives to aid honey bee health. Certain crops—such as blueberries, apples, and cherries—are 90 percent dependent upon honey bee pollination.
  2. Managed bees. Wild honey bees are not the only pollinating bee species. Many different types of bees—including managed honey bee hives consisting mainly of European honey bees—are kept commercially to serve the agriculture industry. Commercial beekeepers will bring their hives into a farmer’s field for a few days to a few weeks to pollinate the crop. Ag Pollinators maintains that California’s almond crop relies on 3 million honey bee colonies to pollinate over 615,000 acres of almond orchards every year.
  3. Bumble bees. Commercial beekeepers also use bumble bees to help farmers pollinate their crops. Bumble bees are a necessity, because honey bees won’t work gathering pollen when it’s raining or even overcast!
  4. Other bee species. According to the NRCS, there are approximately 4,000 bee species in the U.S. Many bees also visit flowers; they are gathering pollen and/or nectar as food, and pollination is simply a byproduct that Nature has taken advantage of. Other bee species include blue orchard mason bees, carpenter bees, and many more that help pollinate agricultural crops and native plants.
  5. Butterflies. The USDA Forest Service’s Pollinator of the Month publication recognizes insect and animal species that contribute to pollination in the U.S. While butterflies are not as efficient as bees at pollination, there are eight different butterflies that we know act as pollinators.
  6. Moths. Moths are the unseen pollinators of flowers that open at night. There are four different kinds of moths that act as pollinators, according to the USDA’s Forest Service.
  7. Wasps. Wasps have a less positive reputation than bees, but several wasps are categorized as pollinators by the USDA’s Forest Service. The paper wasp, yellow jacket, and sphecidae wasp are examples of those needing pollen and nectar for survival.
  8. Other Insects. There are a handful of flies and beetles, and even one species of mosquito, that are pollinators.
  9. Birds. A few birds act as pollinators, according to the USDA’s Forest Service. The most common throughout the U.S. are hummingbirds which are key in wildflower pollination.
  10. Bats. Two different bat species, the lesser long-nosed bat and the Mexican long-tongued bat, drink nectar from flowers, and act as pollinators along the way, according to the USDA’s Forest Service.


Further Info




The Quiz!

What you’ve all been waiting for. You can take it as many times as necessary to pass. Roommates should take it together–enter BOTH your names on the sign-in screen. Good news! Only 5 questions. Bad news! You have only 10 minutes in which to take it. It’s open book, so you can retake it as many times as necessary. You may not get the same set of questions each time. Good Luck!

The Badge!

If you passed the quiz, you’ve earned your badge. REDEMPTION CODE: birdsandbees





Comments are closed.

  1. Oliver Hughes 3 years ago

    she was a wonderful presenter! Learned a lot and passed with 100%!

  2. Angel SammyP 3 years ago

    YAY! I got a 100 % , on my second try. I only got a 40 the first time because I missed the part about it being times. I am so much like my mom who never reads directions. 🙂

  3. Timmy Tomcat 3 years ago

    Wow we got a 7 our of 7 and are really looking forward to helping pollinators that come to our yard

  4. Teddy K 3 years ago

    That was a great refresher ! Thanks Denmaster………..

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