It’s National Pollinator Week!

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Once again, It’s time to celebrate the little animals that… facilitate plant sex by moving plant sperm around.

I’ve discovered over time that a lot of people don’t actually know what pollination is, other than it’s something that’s needed to get fruit. That’s certainly true; apples, bananas, blueberries, melons, peaches, pumpkins, almonds, and a whole bunch of other plants need to be pollinated for us to get the food we like.

That’s the what of pollination.  But the WHY seems to be left out.  Plants need lovin’ too, and the options for them to get their freak on are somewhat limited.  It’s tough to “throw a leg over” when you don’t actually have any legs.

Pollination = sex for plants.
There. I’ve said it.

Sure, you can toss your pollen out on the wind and hope it lands in the right place.  And for a lot of plants, evergreens in particular, this works just fine.   Most spring days my car looks like there was a pine tree bukakke fest.

That methodology results in a lot of wasted gametes (plant sperm) though, so for nearly all flowering plants, insects or other pollinators are needed for plant nookie.   Think of bees and other pollinators as little flying plant wangs.

Most flowers contain both male and female sexual parts, and while plants can self-pollinate, it’s a lot more enjoyable productive to have a second (or third…or fourth…) party involved. Cross-pollination also reduces inbreeding.

Plants attract insect pollinators with lovely colorful displays, special smells, and gifts of nectar or extra pollen that makes a nice snack. And in return plants receive a sort of sexual courier service.  This partnership has been going on for over 100 million years, and has resulted in amazing modifications in both plants and animals.

Without pollinators, some of the finest things in life would not exist:

Chocolate.
Coffee.
Tequila.

All brought to you by a bug-facilitated bonk.

The Xerces Society has many free and wonderful publications on how to plant habitat for pollinators. Why not check those out and establish a horizontal hula zone in your backyard?  And don’t forget to give your sweetheart a bouquet of plant genitalia.

(yes, this is a repost of last year’s Pollinator Week essay, mostly because I didn’t have time to look up new euphemisms.)