What are pollinators?

Pollinators - Anna’s hummingbird

Bees are not our only pollinators in the Pacific Northwest. According to the National Park service:

“A pollinator is anything that helps carry pollen from the male part of the flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (stigma). The movement of pollen must occur for the plant to become fertilized and produce fruits, seeds, and young plants.”

Get to know our PNW pollinators

OR Bee Atlas added hundreds of new species this month. Why is this important? Without bees pollinating our plants, most couldn’t make seeds and eventually die out. There are nearly 5,000 native “wild” bees in the U.S.

But bees (Bumblebees, honeybees, mason bees, and wild bees) are just one type of pollinator—others, including hummingbirds, moths, butterflies, and even wasps.

According to the WSU Clark County Master Gardener program, “Our pollinators are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants repro­duce.”

Examples of Pollinators

Let’s start with one of our favorites, the Orchard Mason Bee. It only lives for six to eight weeks in the early spring.

Pollinator - Mason beesMason bees

It resembles a large fuzzy housefly and is active only from February to mid-June. Nests in tunnels.

Cool fact:

The Orchard Mason Bee is the common name of the nonsocial northwest native bee that pollinates our spring fruit trees, flowers, and vegetables. They are not aggressive, and you can observe them at very close range without fear of being stung.

Pollinators - Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds

In the Pacific Northwest, the hummingbirds are varying colors. Most species migrate, but Anna’s Hummingbirds stay in the area year-round.

Cool fact:

Eating every 10-15 minutes, they can visit up to 2,000 flowers a day. According to the National Audubon Society, “About 8,000 plants in North and South America depend on hummingbirds’ pollination services.”

Pollinators - Moths

Moths

Most species are active only at night, and some are difficult to tell from butterflies!

Cool fact:

Nocturnal moths rely more on their sense of smell or olfaction rather than an ability to perceive bright colors. They often sip from white or cream-colored flowers that have a strong scent. Moth-pollinated flowers will usually be open and emit a strong odor at night.

Butterflies

Butterflies come in varying sizes but with brightly colored scales. They fold their wings above the body when resting.

Cool fact:

Butterflies use color vision when searching for flowers. They typically have six or more photoreceptor classes, each with distinct visual sensitivities. They prefer yellow, red, or orange flowers. But butterflies don’t have much sense of smell, and the flowers they pollinate often don’t have much scent.

Bumblebee

The bumblebee has a broad, fuzzy body that makes body segments challenging to see. The bumblebee may have bands of color rather than stripes.

Cool fact:

According to the National Wildlife Federation, Bumblebee wings beat 130 times per second. The beating combined with their large bodies vibrates flowers until they release pollen, called buzz pollination. Buzz pollination helps plants produce more fruit.

Pollinators - Bumblebees

Honeybee

The honeybee is thinner than a bumblebee and clearly distinguishes between body segments. It is moder­ately fuzzy with many stripes on its abdomen.

Cool fact:

Our landscapes would look much different without bees. Apples, pears, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, beans, squash, and many other plants depend on honey bees for pollination.

small carpenter bee

Small carpenter bee

The small carpenter bee is dark blue or green metallic and mostly hairless.

Cool fact:

Small carpenter bees are active from mid-spring to early fall. These bees have an affinity for flowers from the Aster family.


Ten plants that attract pollinators

The following are plants, shrubs, and trees you could plant for our native pollinators. All of these are Northwest native plants! Visit each link for more information.

Your best resource: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/pollinators


If you are interested in this post, you may also like:

Oregon Native Plants You Can Grow, including SW Washington

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