Over the course of the summer, our plants were growing, spreading and blooming and we noticed an increase of visitors like bees and butterflies. And as more of these animals came, our plants grew more. So we figured there had to be a link between those phenomenons. And there is ; it is called pollination and linked to that also pollinators.
But what exactly does that mean?
Pollination is the process for the plants to reproduce, so for the pollen to go from the male part to the female part of the flower. While some plants can do that on their own, between 75-90% of all plants in our ecosystem are dependant on pollinators.
There are two different types of pollination:
- Self Pollination or Autogamy
- Cross-Pollination or Allogamy
Self pollination is the transfer of pollen from either one flower to the same flower or from two different flowers on the same plant. This usually occurs when the plant is bisexual and there is no need for pollinators.
Cross-Pollination is the transfer of pollen from one flower of one plant to one flower of another plant of the same species. This occurs in both unisexual and bisexual plants and can only be done by pollinators.
Pollinators are agents that take the pollen and move it from one part to the other. There are two main groups of pollinators: Biotic and abiotic.
Biotic agents are animals and there are a lot of different types of animals that play that role. The most famous ones are probably the bees. We all know that bees play a vital role for and in our ecosystem. They are responsible for about 70-80% of the pollination worldwide.
However, there are also other animals that play that role like butterflies, wasps, flies, mosquitoes, moths, beetles, and even some types of ants. Bigger animals would include snails, bats and birds. There are of course loads more and probably even more we don’t yet know about.
Abiotic agents are non-living agents for example wind and water.
Advantages and Disadvantages of pollination
- Genetics remain identical
- More economial as there is no agent
- Basically no waste of pollen
- Can lead to inbreeding -> genetic defects cannot be corrected
- In a crisis, the plant has a low chance of survival
- Doesn’t support evolution
- Offspring is always healthier
- Creation of new genetic combinations
- Supports evolution
- Agent dependency
- Huge amount of pollen wasted
- Flowers need to spend energy to produce nectar and colour to attract pollinators
Why is pollination important?
Pollination is the process to help flowers and plants reproduce, create fruits we can eat and seeds that will create more plants. Without it there would be no flowers and plants anymore and the ecosystem could not survive. Pollinators are responsible for approximately three-quarters of our essential food crops.
It is also important in the support of evolution as cross-pollination creates new genetic combinations and therefore supports evolution. It is because of that, that plants live almost everywhere on Earth, from deserts to the deepest depths of the ocean and everywhere in between.
Furthermore, 74% of today’s medicines derive from plants. So by preserving the pollinators, we preserve the plants that are essential in finding cures for diseases.
What would happen without pollination?
As Einstein already said: If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years left to live.
Without pollination and pollinators, the human race and all ecosystems will collapse. Flowers will die and with no flowers, there will be no propagation of plants leading to a significant loss of greenery. This would lead to a world without living organisms. Plants cannot bear fruit anymore or produce new seeds to grow new plants. On a large scale, it would mean a shortage in our food production.
At least 80% of our world’s crop require pollination to produce seeds and an estimated one out of three bites of food come through the work of animal pollinators. So our supermarkets would have less than half the amount of fruits and vegetables and we would struggle to sustain the needs of the global population of 7 billion people.
As mentioned in the beginning of this post, bees are responsible for about 70-80% of the pollination and roughly 35% of the world’s food crops including fruits and vegetables. While there are some plants that don’t need pollination like herbs or can be pollinated by wind like wheat, it is a vital part for most of the food chain.
We will not only lose all the plants but also all the animals that eat those plants. Animals are crucial on their own for a well functioning ecosystem, even without humans. So adding us into the equation makes it even more fatal. We will have no food anymore making peace impossible which will lead to only more chaos and destruction.
What can we do to increase the number of pollinators?
You don’t need a huge amount of land or machinery to bring pollinators to your house. Having a plant bed to plant a few different plants on your window or balcony can already make a huge difference. Also supporting farmers and beekeepers by buying local honey and locally produced organic foods can make a drastic difference.
By adding pollinator plants to your daily life, you are helping increase the biodiversity of plant communities. Additionally, you can contribute to reducing the impact of endangered pollinator species while watching beautiful species enjoy your plants.
Important to note is to not use any chemical products or pesticides for your plants.
To end this post, I will give you a list of some plants that help attract pollinators:
- Anise Hyssop
- Blazing Meadow Star
- Bee Balm
- Lanceleaf Coreopsis
You can make a change!