June 20-26 is National Pollinator Week, when we as a nation drop whatever we are doing and watch bees for seven days straight. It’s an ancient tradition dating to 2006, and one so widely observed that at least a dozen people other than me are participating this year. Someone may have even made a t-shirt. I think.
In any event, pollination certainly deserves to be celebrated. It’s how flowering plants reproduce- animals carrying gametes among plants- and without pollination we’d have no almonds, no chocolate, no raspberries, no tomatoes, and no lots of other foods. As most pollinators are essentially wild animals their health, and by extension our food, depends on the integrity of natural habitats. Pollinator week seeks to raise awareness of the connection between environmental quality and human well-being.
In central Illinois we are staging a series of pollination-related activities this Sunday, June 26th, including a photo workshop, nature walks, and a native bees workshop.
The blogosphere is also in fine form. Bug Girl’s summary of pollination is brilliant:
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.
Morgan Jackson notes the unfortunate neglect of flies:
Honey bees and their hymenopteran brethren get most of the credit for pollination, but flies are likely just as powerful pollinators, only underappreciated and understudied thus far. Some of the world’s most vital crops (i.e. chocolate) depend on flies for pollination (in this case a biting midge of the family Ceratopogonidae), while countless other plants find themselves in a veritable orgy of Diptera deliveries.
The Xerces Society has a page of pollination resources.
Finally, the Fly Guys and the Bug Chicks bring you a witty pollinator ditty for their International Lesser Known Pollinator Appreciation Day: