A butterfly pollinating a flower

Pollinators are often misunderstood. But first, what is a pollinator? Most of us think of bees and butterflies as our pollinators but there are many more. A pollinator spreads pollen from one plant to another so it can reproduce. Pollen is the powdery stuff you see on flowers. This can get really technical with male & female plants but for now, let’s keep it simple.


Pollinators help fertilize most of the fruit we eat plus vegetable and nuts.

Why is this important you might ask? Well, the majority of our food supply (most fruit, nuts and vegetables) depend on pollinators to fertilize them in order to produce the food we eat. Hmm, that’s pretty important. Think of a world without squash, avocados, mangoes, bananas, almonds, apples and the list goes on and on which all need pollinators to produce.

So besides bees and butterflies, what other animals pollinate? Bats pollinate numerous flowers and cacti including the plant from which tequila is made. Plus they can eat up to 1,000 mosquitos a night so what is not to love about these wondrous mammals?

And what is the largest pollinator? The black and white ruffed lemur from Madagascar which pollinates the traveler’s palm. Another cool pollinator is the honey possum, a marsupial living in Australia. Both animals use their long tongues and snouts to drink nectar from a flower and then spread it to the next flower.


Two lesser long-nosed bats pollinating a saguaro cactus

And did you ever think of reptiles as pollinators? Lizards, geckos and skinks all move pollen from one plant to another. As do birds. But back to mosquitos. They actually pollinate some orchid varieties so even they have a place in our ecosystem. And have you ever heard of a fig wasp? Guess what, they pollinate? Of course, figs. And in this case, the wasp benefits as it lays its eggs inside the fig fruit (and no you don’t eat the wasp eggs) showing once again, the wonderful connection between plants and animals.

Geckos and lizards turn out to be pollinators along with insects and even mammals

So many of our pollinators are misunderstood and greatly under-appreciated. People should revere and not fear bees, wasps and bats. Read more here about why bats are one of our best mammals to have around. Help spread the word  how each pollinator makes an amazing contribution to our every day survival (eating!) and to learn how to help pollinators read How to Protect Your Pollinators in Ten Easy Ways by the Smithsonian.

Bees are one of our most prolific pollinators


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