| By Shelby Theisen
What Is Pollination?
Pollination can be understood as a mutually beneficial process3. Simply put, pollinators are animals that transport pollen from one species of flower to the same species of another flower. This transfer of pollen between flowers allows for the reproduction of more flowers, ensuring new plants will soon grow. Not only do flowers benefit from this transfer of pollen, adult bees and butterflies, for example, require nectar as a primary food source. Female bees also need pollen as a food source for their offspring.
Why are Pollinators Important?
At least one out of every three bites of food we consume are directly because of pollinators. We rely on pollinators to provide our crops with the necessary pollen needed to successfully grow. Additionally, at least 75% of all flowering plants on the earth need pollinators or order to successfully grow2. Over 180,000 different plant species and at least 1200 crops rely on pollination2. In addition to the food we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, and support other wildlife2. Although humans rely heavily on pollinators for agricultural purposes, pollination is responsible for the thriving habitats we see all over the world.
What Pollinators are Found in Central Florida?
Florida’s range of ecosystems and tropical climate allows for a diverse group of pollinators to thrive. A large variety of bee species, such as the southeastern blueberry bee (Habropoda laboriosa), squash bees (genera: Peponapis, Xenoglossa), and hibiscus (or okra) bee (Ptilothrix bombiformis), thousands of other native bees, butterflies, flower flies, beetles, wasps, and moths all help to ensure healthy, productive plant communities, provide food that sustains other wildlife and an overall healthy are also found in south Florida. Many pollinators including the monarch butterfly migrate. On its way to Mexico, the Monarch butterfly will stop in Florida before continuing its path. Another interesting fact is that some monarch populations stay in central and south Florida due to the year-round warmth.4
What is Happening to the Pollinator Population?
Cities around the United States are continuing to develop more than ever before. Once green spaces are being turned into concrete ones. Pollution and use of pesticides also have a negative impact on pollinators habitats. “With the expansion of industrial agriculture and human development, many habitats have shrunk, fragmented, or disappeared completely. This includes natural spaces containing important forage and nesting sites for wildlife species, including pollinators such as bees. Studies have shown that declines in pollinator abundance aligns with increasing habitat fragmentation” (Honeybee Conservancy Organization 1995). The diminishing habitats of pollinators is a global issue that must first be recognized locally. In central Florida, due to increasing development, pollution, and climate change, we see a direct hit to our pollinator populations, however there are many organizations and projects in effect to help save our pollinators.
What Can be Done to Save Pollinators?
These wasted spaces, as discussed earlier, may include park spaces, front lawns, office building lawns and rooftops, and any green space not being utilized. Anyone can help pollinator populations increase. Native plants are the best sources of nectar and pollen for native pollinators. Incorporating native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees into any landscape promotes local biological diversity and provides shelter and food for a diversity of wildlife1. Additional advantages of native plants are that they may require less water than non-natives. Additionally, they do not require fertilizers, and are less likely to be overcome by weeds1. Awareness of how the pollinator decline affects both humans and animals is essential in tackling the issue. There are many plants native to central Florida that are beautiful, very easy to maintain, and loved by a variety of pollinators. Some native plants to incorporate in your garden could be Firebush, Porter Weed, Hibiscus, Ferns (Boston Fern), Elephant Ears, and Purple Passion Vine. Each attract a variety of pollinators and will add color and life to your yard.
Bee research laboratory (1995) Bees and pollination in our changing environment. Retrieved from https://www.apidologie.org/articles/apido/pdf/1995/05/Apidologie_0044-8435_1995_26_5_ART0001.pdf
Honey Bee Conservancy (2017) https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org
1 To purchase a copt of the Florida Butterfly Guide go to her site at : https://shop.katedolamore.com/products/florida-butterflies-field-guide-art-print
2 https://www.floridamemory.com/solr- search/results/index/page/7?q=%28Orlando+OR+tt%3AOrlando%5E10%29+AND+collection%3A%22Florida+Photographic+Collection%22&searchbox=1&query=Orlando&year=&gallery=0&search-type=
3 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bumblebee_on_Hibiscus_Blossom.JPG To purchase a copt of the Florida Butterfly Guide go to her site at : https://shop.katedolamore.com/products/florida-butterflies-field-guide-art-print
Header Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/7008313279
Purple passion vine: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/721449
Fire bush: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hamelia_patens_1.jpg
Ferns (Boston Fern): https://www.google.com/search?q=Boston+Fern&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS741US741&tbm=isch&source=lnt&tbs=sur:fc&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiciPP16cHgAhXrTN8KHXw2CqcQpwUIIQ&biw=1440&bih=736&dpr=1#imgrc=x_bWm-ZYQZW3oM:
Elephant Ears: https://www.google.com/search?q=alocasia&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS741US741&tbm=isch&source=lnt&tbs=sur:fc&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQm72-6sHgAhUwmuAKHTdbDhgQpwUIIQ&biw=1440&bih=736&dpr=1#imgrc=NUEYeZk4YcbUxM: