In 2012 as part of federal budget cuts, NBII was taken offline. I will leave this post here as a testament to the awesome resources we’ve lost.
Check out these Pollination Reources for teachers at the NBII! (National Biological Information Infrastructure) They currently have 78 lessons related to pollination and pollinators listed.
“The cacao flower, while only about the diameter of a nickel, is complex in design and behavior, necessitating a special kind of animal to pollinate it. Recent studies in cacao plantations indicate that midges, tiny flies that inhabit the damp, shady rain forest, are the only animals that can work their way through the complex cacao flower and pollinate it. A member of the same insect family as the “no-see-um” flies that plague us with their bites, this millimeter-long fly is from the family Ceratopogonidae and the genus Forcipomyia–a very tiny animal with a very long name. These cacao-pollinating midges are endemic not to plantations, but to the tropical rain forest itself.”
Sadly, the way in which we grow cacao actually contributes to low pollination rates, since the midges aren’t very happy away from the rain forest.