Pollination: The Bird and Bees — And Other Things

A Bee hovering while collecting pollen from Pussy Willow blossom. Hairs on Bee are covered in yellow pollen as are it's legs.

The Birds and the Bees

Bees do it. Birds do it. Even bats, beetles, and other flying insects do it. No, that list does not include "educated fleas," no matter what the song says.

The "it" is pollination.

Bees are well-known for their pollinating prowess, but they don't do the job solo. There are several bugs, bats, and birds that keep the earth's greenery growing.

You, too, can be a "flower power" warrior by taking just a few actions to help Mother Nature's pollinators do their job.

A sad fact of life and the media is the almost constant bad news about mankind's negative impact on the Big Blue Marble called Earth. While humans have advanced significantly as a species over the last few centuries, the consequences of that progress have hit this beloved planet hard.

The good news is that efforts are underway to reverse that damage. One way ordinary, everyday people like you are doing their part is by assisting bees in their pollination tasks.

Bees are being affected by human-caused disruptions in nature. There is more research on what bees do for the planet and how bees have been struggling in the past few decades. There have also been more efforts to preserve these tiny workhorses.

American poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, "To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee." That observation speaks volumes about the power of a bee.

Enacting a few, small lifestyle changes and tweaking a few habits makes a huge difference for bees. In fact, it might be their only hope.

close up of bee

Don't Be a Buzzkill for Bees

Experts say 2023 is one of the worst years for bees in the 21st century. Bees play a crucial role in pollinating our crops and sustaining ecosystems, but numerous threats have led to a population decline.

Here are some practical ways individuals can make a positive impact to help bees thrive.

1. Plant Bee-Friendly Gardens

One of the most effective ways to support bees is a bee-friendly garden.

Choose native flowering plants that provide nectar and pollen sources throughout the different seasons. Aim for a variety of colors and shapes to attract different species of bees. Some bee-friendly plants include lavender, sunflowers, and wildflowers.

Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in your garden. These may harm the bees. Use natural pest control methods or companion planting to deter pests.

2. Provide Nesting Sites

Bees need suitable nesting sites to lay their eggs and rear their young. Enhance your garden by creating nesting habitats, such as bee houses or bee hotels, from natural materials like bamboo tubes or drilled wooden blocks.

Place the nesting sites in a sunny, sheltered spot to attract solitary bee species. Leave some bare patches of soil and/or long grass to allow ground-nesting bees to establish their nests.

3. Offer Water

Bees require water for hydration and to cool the hive. Create a water source in your garden by placing a shallow dish or birdbath filled with fresh water and adding some pebbles or floating objects to provide landing sites for bees.

Ensure the water source is regularly replenished to prevent it from becoming stagnant and attracting mosquitoes.

4. Support Local Beekeepers

Purchasing honey and other bee-related products from local beekeepers supports their important work. Local honey is often produced by beekeepers who employ sustainable and bee-friendly practices. By buying locally, you contribute to the local economy and support bee populations.

Make others aware of the benefits of locally-produced honey and the importance of supporting beekeepers.

5. Educate Yourself and Others

Learn more about the importance of bees and the challenges they face. Educate yourself about the actions that negatively impact bee populations, such as pesticide use and habitat destruction. Share this knowledge with others through personal conversations, writing articles or blog posts, or organizing community workshops on bee conservation.

You can simply post to social media sites about your experience creating a bee-friendly habitat to encourage others to do the same.

Raising awareness inspires more people to take action to protect bees and other pollinators.

Helping bees involves taking small steps that, collectively, can make a significant impact. Choosing bee-friendly plants, providing nesting sites, conserving water, supporting local beekeepers, and educating others create an environment that benefits bee health and well-being.

Such subtle changes are a small price to pay to protect this vital pollinator to ensure a sustainable future.

close up of bee on flower covered in pollen

There's More to the Pollinator Party

Bees and butterflies are certainly the most well-known pollinators, but they aren't the only ones. There's a whole list of other creatures that do their part in pollinating the planet and a worthy of recognition and your efforts to support their work.

Though bees' problems have prompted many people to take action, other pollinators also struggle due to climate change and pollution. Here's a list of insects and animals you probably didn't know were pollinators.


Moths, often overlooked in the realm of pollination, play a significant role as important pollinators in various ecosystems. While bees and butterflies steal the spotlight, moths work diligently during the twilight hours to transfer pollen from one flower to another.

Moths, particularly nocturnal species, are uniquely adapted to their pollination roles. These creatures' specialized mouthparts (proboscis) extract nectar from flowers. As moths hover near flowers, their long and slender proboscis reaches deep into the flower, allowing pollen to stick to their bodies.

Unlike bees and butterflies, moths are typically attracted to flowers that bloom at night. These flowers, often pale or white and with strong fragrances, are specifically suited to moth pollination.

Moths are guided by their keen sense of smell, homing in on floral scents of night flowers. Moths inadvertently pick up pollen grains during their visits. As they move from one flower to another, they transfer this pollen to aid the plant's reproductive success.

Moths use a diverse strategy in their pollination efforts. Some moth species have specialized wing scales that effectively transfer pollen grains. These scales act as tiny hooks that preserve pollen during the moth's journey from one flower to another. Others have fringed wings that allow them to carry larger amounts of pollen.

Moths travel longer distances than other pollinators, contributing to genetic diversity and gene flow among plant populations. Their nocturnal activity patterns and ability to navigate across vast landscapes make them essential in supporting the health, and genetic diversity of many plant species.

Moths' nocturnal behavior and specialized adaptations deserve recognition as vital pollinators. These unsung heroes play an important role in maintaining the delicate balance of our natural ecosystems.


While commonly associated with their sting and aggression, wasps also serve as important pollinators in various ecosystems. Despite their reputation, many wasp species play a significant role in plant reproduction and contribute to the diversity of flowering plants.

Wasps are attracted to flowers for their nectar, seeking out sources of energy in the form of sugars. As they feed on nectar, wasps unintentionally pick up and deposit pollen onto the reproductive structures of flowers. This transfer of pollen between flowers allows for fertilization and the production of seeds.

One unique aspect of wasp pollination is their preference for particular flower species. Some flowers have co-evolved with specific groups of wasps, developing specialized features that attract and accommodate these pollinators.

For example, certain orchid species resemble female wasps, using pheromones and visual cues to deceive male wasps into attempting to mate with the flowers, resulting in pollination.

In addition to their direct role in pollination, wasps indirectly benefit plants by preying on insects that damage flowers or consume plant tissues. By keeping pest populations in check, wasps contribute to the overall health of the plant community.

While wasps may generate mixed feelings among humans, it is important to recognize their ecological value as pollinators. The next time you're tempted to say, "Why do we need wasps anyway," now you know.

By fulfilling their role in the pollination process, wasps support the reproduction and continuity of plant species. Understanding and appreciating the diverse contributions of these often-misunderstood insects fosters greater respect for nature's intricate web of interactions.


Flies, despite their unpopularity and often misjudged reputation, play a vital role in pollination and the biodiversity and productivity of different ecosystems. Their capabilities and contributions to pollination are remarkable.

Flies are frequent flower visitors, seeking sugar-rich nectar to fuel their high-energy lifestyle. As they move from one blossom to another searching for food, they inadvertently collect pollen on their bodies and transfer it to subsequent flowers they visit. This inadvertent pollen transportation triggers the process of cross-pollination, vital for plant reproduction.

Flies, like bees, are attracted to vibrant colors that indicate the presence of nectar. Some species prefer specific colors, thereby pollinating specific plants more frequently.

Certain flowers specifically attract flies by producing odors similar to decaying organic matter that flies are naturally drawn to.

A unique aspect of fly pollination is its range and diversity. With over 120,000 species around the world, flies pollinate a variety of plants from the frozen Arctic tundra to the hot, humid tropical rainforests. They are at work in cooler conditions when other pollinators are inactive.

Flies’ involvement in pollinating often goes unnoticed or underappreciated, yet they play crucial roles in supporting biodiversity. Embracing flies as a part of a pollinator-friendly strategy helps the ecosystems flourish and supports the growth of various plant species.


Beetles are an often overlooked group of pollinating insects, but they play an important role in the reproductive success of many plants. With their diverse shapes, sizes, and feeding habits, beetles have developed unique adaptations that allow them to function as pollinators in various ecosystems.

One of the key ways beetles contribute to pollination is by feeding on flower structures. Unlike other pollinators that primarily focus on collecting nectar, beetles feed on the flower's petals, stamens, and even pollen itself.

As they move from flower to flower, beetles carry pollen on their bodies and transfer male gametes to the female reproductive structures of plants. This cross-pollination is essential for genetic diversity and successful seed production.

Beetles prefer certain types of flowers. Many beetle-pollinated flowers have unique characteristics to attract beetles, such as rich scents, large size, and bright colors. These features make the flowers more visible and appealing to beetles, increasing the chances of successful pollination.

Some beetle-pollinated flowers have specialized structures, like shallow bowls or flaps, that provide a safe landing platform for beetles and facilitate efficient pollen transfer.

Beetles withstand harsh environmental conditions, allowing them to be active pollinators in various habitats and climates. They are found in diverse ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to temperate woodlands, pollinating many different plant species.

While these "creepy crawlies" don't receive the same level of recognition as bees and butterflies for their pollination efforts, their unique behaviors and adaptations make them valuable pollinators. Their feeding habits and preferences for certain types of flowers contribute to the reproductive success and genetic diversity of many plant species.

Recognizing and appreciating the role of beetles in pollination is essential for understanding and conserving the intricate ecological relationships that exist in our natural world.


Bats, often associated with darkness and mystery, play an important role as pollinators in many ecosystems. This misunderstood and often feared creature the Germans call a "flying mouse" (fledermaus), has developed a specialized relationship with certain plants that makes the bat an important pollinator.

One of the key reasons bats are effective pollinators is their ability to fly long distances in search of food. As they navigate the night sky, bats visit flowers to feed on nectar or consume pollen. During this process, they transfer pollen from the male reproductive structures of one flower to the female structures of another, enabling cross-pollination.

This pollination mechanism is especially important for plants that bloom at night and rely on bats for effective reproduction. Bats also have distinct physical characteristics that aid pollination.

Many bat-pollinated flowers are large and open-faced, making it easier for bats to access nectar. These flowers often emit strong, musty or fruity scents to attract bats, which rely on their sense of smell to guide them to the right food source.

Bats also have long tongues that are well-suited for extracting nectar from these specialized flowers.

Bats also disperse seeds. After they consume nectar or fruits, bats fly to different locations where they drop or spit out seeds from their previous meal site. This helps plants colonize new areas and promotes genetic diversity within plant populations.

Bats' importance as pollinators cannot be understated. They play a vital role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems by ensuring the survival and propagation of numerous plant species.

Bats face numerous threats — including habitat loss, hunting, and climate change — which negatively impact their populations and the pollination services they provide. Efforts to protect and conserve bat populations are essential for preserving the delicate ecological relationships that depend on their pollination and seed dispersal activities.

Raising awareness about the importance of bats as pollinators is necessary to foster appreciation and support for their conservation.


Birds are also major players in pollination, contributing to the reproductive success of many plant species. Certain bird species, such as hummingbirds, have a mutually beneficial relationship with specific flowers.

As birds feed on nectar, pollen attaches to their bodies and transfers from flower to flower. Birds' long beaks allow them to access the nectar deep within flowers.

Birds also disperse seeds as they consume fruits, further supporting plant diversity.

The unique behaviors and adaptations of birds make them vital pollinators in various ecosystems.

close up of hummingbird on a flower

Be a Pollinator Pal

Making your garden bee-friendly is a great start to creating a habitat that meets the needs of pollinators. Everyone can do more for their environment by considering all of the potential pollinators that visit your flower garden and yard.

Carefully considering the blend of flowers you plant creates a garden with something for all pollinator types. Planting a broad range of flowers is a small step to help pollinators — and increase your serotonin levels by making you feel good about your efforts.

By taking action to assist the many pollinators, we counteract some of humanity's negative influences of pollution and climate change. It also makes you a more involved and present part of the ecosystems literally found in your own backyard.

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