Learn about pollinators and the role that they play in our ecosystems.
Pollination plays an important role in our everyday lives. It has a particularly great effect on the variety of food that we have available to us—apples, berries, chocolate and peanut butter are all by-products of the work that pollinators do.
In this lesson, students will learn about the process of pollination, the animals that pollinate, and the strategies that they can use to promote pollinator health and wellbeing.
- describe the importance of pollinators in nature
- describe, in general terms, how pollination works
- list a few characteristics of common pollinators (birds, bees, butterflies)
- list human actions that benefit pollination and pollinators
Pollination occurs when insects and animals go to feed on nectar at flowers. They accidentally rub against the pollen inside of the flower and transport it from one flower to another. When this happens, the flower is fertilized and can make fruit and seeds.
There are roughly 200,000 varieties of animal pollinators in the wild, most of which are insects. Other animals such as birds and bats can also help with pollination.
Flowering plants have several different parts that are important in pollination. Flowers have male parts called stamens that produce a sticky powder called pollen. The tiny grains of pollen produce the male reproductive cells. Most pollen in North America is a yellow or orange colour. The female part of the flower is called the pistil. The top of the pistil is called the stigma, and is often sticky. Seeds are made at the base of the pistil, in the ovule.
For a plant to be pollinated, pollen must be moved from a stamen to the stigma. When pollen from a plant's stamen is transferred to that same plant's stigma, it is called self-pollination. When pollen from a plant's stamen is transferred to a different plant's stigma, it is called cross-pollination. Cross-pollination produces stronger plants. The plants must be of the same species in order for fertilization to take place. For example, only pollen from a daisy can pollinate another daisy.
Plants which use bats or moths as pollinators typically have evolved to have flowers with white petals and a strong scent. Plants that use birds as pollinators tend to have flowers with red petals and rarely develop a scent (few birds have a sense of smell).
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