Native pollinators are animals and insects that have evolved alongside native plants over the years. They move pollen from one flower to another, fertilizing plants to help them reproduce and survive.
Experts gather that animals pollinate roughly 75 percent of the crop plants grown across the globe that are used for food, beverages, medicines, and spices. But it’s not only food that they provide. Native pollinators are also key players in a natural ecosystem by keeping plant communities healthy, preventing erosion, maintaining clean waterways, and supplying food and shelter for wildlife.
Pollinators include butterflies, bats, bees, moths, small mammals, and of course, bees. Believe it or not, there are over 4,000 native pollinators in North America alone! Let’s take a look at the ones we’re most likely to see in our North American backyards and gardens.
Bees provide essential pollination services for a majority of terrestrial ecosystems globally. In the United States, honeybees and thousands of other specials of native bees are responsible for pollinating a variety of fruit and vegetables, flowers, and forest, meadow, and garden plants.
Solitary bees, like mason bees, are among some of the most common native pollinators. They do not live in hives or colonies but instead nest in interesting places like dirt mounds, abandoned insect tunnels, dead trees, or abandoned termite holes.
Social bees, such as bumblebees, do live in colonies. They share work and adapt to a hive mentality in which the colony works together to ensure survival and reproduction.
Bats often take the night shift when it comes to pollinating duties, helping to disperse flowering seeds and pollinating crops. One of the most critical bats is the Mexican Long-Nose Bat which primarily resides along the southern parts of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.
These bats help the survival of valuable commercial crops like mangoes, peaches, figs, and dates which have flowers that only open at nighttime.
Beautiful and beloved critters, butterflies are extremely important as pollinators. There are over 700 species of butterflies in North America, and they are closely linked to their local environments and plant species. And although butterflies are less efficient at pollinating than bees, they play a critical part in transferring pollen for cilantro, broccoli, sage, cabbage, and chamomile plants.
As these unique creatures feed on nectar-producing plants, they pollinate in return. To meet their daily caloric need, hummingbirds visit between 1,000 and 3,000 flowers per day! While they are drinking the nectar from plants, they get coated in pollen grains which transfer to the next flower they visit.
Hummingbirds play an important role in the pollination of numerous species of shrubs and vines, some of which have specifically adapted to pollination by hummingbirds.
If you’re an organic gardener like us, you are likely familiar with the pest-eating powers of the ladybug! What’s less known is their powerful role in pollination. Ladybugs and other beetles like soldier beetles, blister beetles, checkered beetles, and jewel beetles, are so numerous that they pollinate about 85% of the flowering plants worldwide.
Fun fact: Fossil records indicate that beetles were presumably the first insect pollinators of prehistoric flowering plants around 150 million years ago!
To learn more about the conservation of pollinators, head to our blog!