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It's National Pollinator Week from June 18-24, 2018. Let's celebrate with some science-themed activities.

What is Pollination?

Pollination is an essential process for plants to create healthy fruit and seeds. Scientifically, pollination is the movement of pollen (the colorful powdery dust) from anther of a flower to the stigma of the same or another flower.

(“Mature flower diagram” by Mariana Ruiz LadyofHats. Public Domain image at Wikimedia Commons.)

From the diagram it seems simple and straightforward, but pollination takes many different forms depending on the plant. Some types, for example grasses, produce light pollen grains that may be carried by the wind or water from plant to plant. Other plants, for example squash and cucumbers, require insects, birds, or bats to carry the pollen.

Without this pollination assistance, fruit and/or seeds would not be formed. In fact, about a third of the food we eat is the direct result of pollination by insects.

Why Bees?

Bees are important pollinators. More than 100 agricultural crops in the United States are pollinated by bees. Examples of bee-pollinated crops include watermelons, cantaloupe, citrus, and apples. (See a more complete list of plants pollinated by insects).

While a worker bee is in a flower gathering nectar, pollen from the anther often sticks to her hairy body. Because the bee generally visits a number of the same type of flower in a patch, she will rub some of the pollen off onto the stigma of another flower and complete pollination. Some flowers such as orchids have elaborate mechanisms to make sure bees are dusted with pollen when they visit.

Part of the reason honey bees are so important as pollinators is that they actively seek out flowers with pollen, unlike pollinators such as bats and hummingbirds that are primarily interested in nectar. Pollen stored in the hive is used as a source of protein in feeding the developing larvae.

Activity:  Keep a Pollinator Diary

Have you seen any pollinators today?

The first step towards understanding pollinators is being able to recognize them. Obtain or make a small notebook for each child. For the next seven days, have them write down or draw pictures of any pollinators they see each day. If they have trouble finding pollinators nearby, consider visiting a zoo, park, or community garden where pollinators might be active.

Note any details, like:

  • What kind of flower is it visiting?
  • Does the pollinator have pollen on its body?
  • If so, what color is the pollen?
  • What time of day it is
  • What the weather is like

This honey bee is visiting a rosemary flower and it is covered with white pollen.

This hummingbird is visiting aloe flowers.

They may use the information they gather to:

  1. Learn to identify common pollinators
  2. Further understand behaviors and habitats of pollinators
  3. Research what plants are visited by pollinators in your area
  4. Design and plant a pollinator garden (see links below for more information)

Extensions:  Take photographs and record the information in an online diary format.

To get excited about pollinators, check out this video:


The Beauty of Pollination - Wings of Life

 

Related Activity Suggestions:

Looking for more information? Try our growing list of children's books about pollinationat Science Books for Kids.

It's pollinator week, so let's celebrate by investigating some insects that visit flowers and carry pollen.

honey-bee-yellow-flower

Of course, most of us recognize that honey bees are important pollinators.

pollinator-bee

Other types of bees, some large and some small, also gather and move pollen. What other kinds of insects are pollinators?

pollinator-wasp

What about wasps?

pollinator-beetle-pollinator

Do you think beetles can carry pollen?

Damselfly-nice-close

This damselfly is on a flower. Is it a pollinator?

flower-fly

Although it looks like a bee, do you think this fly might be a pollinator?

skipper-on-vetch-close

What about butterflies? Can they be important pollinators?

moth-iridescent

You rarely see moths during the day. Can moths be pollinators?

If you answered yes to all the insects above except the damselfly, then you know your pollinators. The dragonflies and damselflies may rest on flowers, but they catch insects for food and don't carry enough pollen from flower to flower to be considered pollinators.

From Arizona? You might want to check out the National Pollinator Week celebration at Tohono Chul in Tucson. It is going to be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday June 22, 2013. The first 50 families attending the event will get to make their own native bee habitat to take home. There will be special showings of Wings of Life, a new film from Disneynature narrated by Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, and a talk by bee specialist Dr. Stephen Buchmann of Pollinator Partnership. Sounds like a great way to spend the day!

If you don't live in Arizona, you can find your state on the clickable map at www.pollinator.org to locate events near you.

We'd love to hear what you do to celebrate pollinator week!

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Wings of Life is also available on DVD/Bluray.

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It's National Pollinator Week (June 17 through June 23, 2012) and we're celebrating insect pollinators!

Did you know that many plants will not produce fruit unless they are properly pollinated? Roughly one third of the food in the grocery store, from apples to vanilla, would no longer be available if there were no pollinators to carry pollen from flower to flower. Fortunately, there are bats, birds, butterflies, bees (and more) to get the job done.

The National Pollinator Week website has plenty of resources to help you participate and to learn more, including:

Activities for Kids,

and Information for Educators.

If you follow the educators link, you will see the Bee Smart School Garden Kit ( I believe this is available a $150 donation). Scroll down to Additional Useful Resources to find a free 127 page curriculum Nature's Partner's to download (.pdf) and other helpful resources.

When we think of pollinators, of course the honey bee springs to mind. If you click on the bees category here at Growing with Science, you will find photographs and information about a variety of different bees that also are important pollinators.

Related science activities:

1. Honey bee anatomy

2. Honey bee life cycle

3. Honey bee science activities

4. How honey bees keep warm

Butterflies travel from flower to flower feeding on nectar, and also distribute pollen.

Butterfly science activities

Although they don't get as much press, flies are pollinators,

like this flower fly,

and beetles are pollinators, as well.

Yes, insects do make our world a better place.

Which pollinators are your favorites?