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Spring is a wonderful time to watch bees in the Southwest, especially when the prickly pear cactus are in bloom.

bee-in-cactus-flower-farFor example, what is this bee doing?

bee-in-cactus-flower-closeCan you see better in this photograph?

Have you ever had a bee stick its tongue out at you?

And don't forget:

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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?

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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?