Pollinators and Pollination

Plants rely on many partners in the task of moving pollen around to propagate themselves. The food chain and life itself on Earth relies on the partnership of plants and pollinators. Pollinators include bees, wasps, flies, moths, butterflies, ants, and birds. The most effective pollinators in general are bees. Pollen is a food source for bees that they collect and move with the assistance of hairs and other features of their bodies. We often think of honey bees (which are non-native) doing this job, but our native bees are primary pollinators.

Pollination Mechanisms and Plant-Pollinator Relationships
University of Missouri Extension

Pollinator Syndromes
USDA, US Forest Service

Become a OSU Dandelion Detective
Dandelion Detectives is a STEM activity targeting 3-7 graders where participants work together to measure the value of weeds for insects. Dandelion Detectives will take place over the summer of 2021. Participants can be located in Ohio or surrounding midwestern states. 

Pollinators Matter

Ways we can thing about pollinators:

  • Curiosity about pollinators themselves... appreciation and support of bees, butterflies, birds, etc.

  • Curiosity about plants themselves... appreciation and support of one or more kinds of plants

  • Ecosystem services... (click here for a chart)

    • Tending toward (human) self-interest: Pollination, Food, Biodiversity, Aesthetics

    • Tending toward human care of nature: Stewardship, Habitat, Sustainability

Of the foods and beverages that we consume daily, over 30% rely on or benefit from a pollinator.

From Pollinator Partnership:

Somewhere between 75% and 95% of all flowering plants on the earth need help with pollination – they need pollinators. Pollinators provide pollination services to over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1200 crops. That means that 1 out of every three bites of food you eat is there because of pollinators . If we want to talk dollars and cents, pollinators add 217 billion dollars to the global economy , and honey bees alone are responsible for between 1.2 and 5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity in the United States. In addition to the food that we eat, pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife .

"Pollinators need you. You need pollinators." https://www.pollinator.org/pollinators, accessed 3/11/2021

Helping pollinators survive and thrive

Pollinators are at risk!!

From the Xerces Society:

Protecting and Enhancing Pollinators in Urban Landscapes
Collaboration between faculty at Michigan State University, University of Maryland, and Ohio State University

Habitat Restoration and Management Webinar Series (videos)
From Pollinator Partnership

Pollinator Pathways

PolliNation Podcast
PolliNation is a podcast from Oregon State University Extension Service that tells the stories of researchers, land managers and concerned citizens who are making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators.

Protecting Pollinators While Using Pesticides
Ohioline Fact Sheet ANR-68, Helen M. Andrews, Graduate Research Associate and Mary Ann Rose, Director, Pesticide Safety Education Program

Gardening for Pollinators

Gardening for pollinators involves more than flowering plants. It is about habitat... food, shelter, water, and resources for reproduction. Pollinators have evolved to co-exist with particular plants and conditions. Butterflies and moths need specific plants that their caterpillars can eat. Bees require flowers that produce pollen as well as nectar and places to lay eggs (crevices, loose soil, tunnels) . Hummingbirds tend to visit flowers with particular shapes. Some cultivars of plants have blooms that physically make the flower unusable for pollinators. The structure of the flower may make access to nectar and pollen impossible, the flower may lack pollen or nectar, or a change in color may make the flower unrecognizable to a pollinator. Native plants are very important for pollinator gardening (that does not mean you have to give up all your non-native plants).

When people think of pollinator gardens, they typically imagine a place full butterflies. Remember that such gardens will have many types of visitors including bees, wasps, and flies (learn the differences). This is not a bad thing, but may require a shift in attitudes. Bees and wasps are most aggressive when they have something to protect...a nest or themselves. When foraging they are away from their nest and unless directly threatened they want to get about their business. And there are a wide variety of flies beyond house flies.

Attracting Pollinators to the Garden
Ohioline Fact Sheet ENT-47, Denise Ellsworth, Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University

Red Spotted Admiral

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar instar

Mining Bee

Calligrapher Fly

Stink Bug Hunter Wasp

Protecting and Enhancing Pollinators Bulletin (PDF)
Michigan State University Extension bulletin E3314

Native Insect Pollinators and Their Habitats
University of Missouri Extension

Ohio Trees for Bees (PDF)
Ohioline Fact Sheet ENT-71-15, Denise Ellsworth, Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University

Gardening and Landscaping Practices for Nesting Native Bees
From Utah State University Extension

Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden Using Native Plants (PDF)
From US Forest Service (Eastern States)

Ecoregional Planting Guides
Enter zip code to get a planting guide plus PDF planting guides. From Pollinator Partnership.

Native Plants of Ohio - a Selection for Ohio Gardens (PDF)
A bonus of this resource is the list of pollinators each plant is likely to attract. Compiled by Hope Taft and Debra Knapke - 1/2020

Bees Specializing on Certain Flowering Plants (Oligolectic Bees)
This page lists the scientific name of a bee species and the plant species they prefer. From Illinois Wildflowers.

Pollinator Habitat Establishment Recommendations (PDF)
From Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative

Bees see the world differently than us...

Native Bees

See more about bees on the Insects and Arachnids page

Bee Lab at The Ohio State University
Education, research and outreach related to honey bees, wild bees and other pollinators

Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees (PDF)
By Dr. Beatriz Moisset and Dr. Stephen Buchmann, A USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership Publication.

Ohio Bee Identification Guide
Developed by Scott Prajzner and Mary Gardiner, Department of Entomology, Ohio State University OARDC, Wooster, OH in cooperation with Pollinator Partnership

Guide to Specialist Bees of Ohio (PDF)
Developed by the Ohio Native Bee Collaborative. Lists of specialist bees were compiled from Jarrod Fowler’s website on specialist bees and Discoverlife.org. Contributors (in alphabetical order): Amy Schnebelin, Livia Raulinaitis, MaLisa Spring. First Ohio Edition: 2021

Bumble Bees of the Eastern United States (PDF)
By Sheila Colla, Leif Richardson, and Paul Williams. A USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership Publication.

How to Identify and Enhance Ohio’s Wild Bees in Your Landscape
Ohioline Fact Sheet ENT-85, MaLisa R. Spring and Mary M. Gardiner, The Ohio State University

Supporting Native Bees: Our Essential Pollinators
From University of Wisconsin Extension

Bees of Ohio: A Field Guide
The Bees of Ohio: A Field Guide (Version 1.1.1 , 5/2020) was developed based on Bees of Maryland: A Field Guide, authored by the North American Native Bee Collaborative

Comparing Honey, Bumble, and Mason Bees

Bees in Your Backyard, Wilson & Carril

The Pollinator Report... A good recorded webinar series from Osmia Bee Company

Honey Bees

Honey Bees as Pollinators, Their Habitats and Products
University of Missouri Extension

Native Pollinators

Native Insect Pollinators and Their Habitats
University of Missouri Extension

Butterflies and Moths (Lepidoptera)

See more about lepidoptera on the Insects and Arachnids page

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Field Guides

OSU Bee Lab Webinars

From 2021 Spring Authors Series