Pollinators in action

grass flowers: prettier than you'd think

This shot may look like it came from an exotic location, but in fact I snapped it not three hours ago in our prairie garden. The sideoats grama is flowering, and its tiny blossoms are positively buzzing with miniature halictid bees, each barely half a centimenter long.

photo details:
Canon EOS 7D camera with a Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens
ISO 500, f5.6, 1/200 sec
diffuse overhead flash, handheld

12 thoughts on “Pollinators in action”

  1. Wow. That’s interesting. Does this grass actually have petals, then? Maybe sideoats evolved this trait independently?

  2. What a cool shot! Beautiful! I assumed, being a grass, it was wind pollinated. I will have to check for these bees at our park.

  3. Jason — Those aren’t petals, they’re anthers. The beauty of grass flowers is quite under-appreciated. The flowers of another prairie grass, Eastern gama, have even larger and showier anthers, and they have long purple stigmas, to boot.

    Janet — They are wind pollinated. The bees in this case are robbing pollen without effectively pollinating.

    1. James- I do wonder about the pollination thing. I’ve been videoing these bees as well, and when they land on a flower pollen is shaken copiously off the anthers and into the wind. Given the bright colors, I wonder if the plant may actually be using the bees to assist in the wind pollination bit.

      1. I guess that is a fair hypothesis – I was just reading about a population of Parnassia palustris in Norway where insect visitors appeared to be helping in self pollination by dislodging pollen (this plant was thought to be obligate outcrossing). However, in your video there is no sign the bees are going to the pistils. And why would they?

      1. JasonC,
        I would guess something is attracting the bees to the grass anthers. Why would the bees investigate such a minor component of the environment in the first place? Do the anthers reflect in UV?

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    1. Alex,
      thanks for posting some beautiful images and movies of a behavior I have seen many times. In fact, over the years I’ve observed both honey bees and different species of solitary bees collecting pollen from various “anemophilous” plants (mostly various grasses (Zea mays, Uniola paniculata, Paspalum notatum), but also narrow leaf plantain and Gnaphalium sp. (a composite)). In fact, during my master’s research, our lab looked into the effect of honey bees on U. paniculata seed set – no discernable effect despite the LARGE number of bees visiting open florets.

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