Spinning tales about pollination

Charlotte's Web-Spining Tales


Bees are exceptional pollinators and help enable human beings to thrive on earth.  PHOTO BY BRETT PIGONPlants are vital to humans and many living things. Through pollination and resulting fertilization, plants produce necessities, such as food for nourishment, cotton for clothing, lumber for shelter and seeds for reproduction.   

Pollination is the transfer of pollen in a flower from the anther (male) to the stigma (female). It may be intentional, incidental or accidental. 

Methods of pollination are cross pollination (used by most plants) — the transfer of pollen from one flower to the stigma of another in a different plant of the same species by an insect, animal, wind or water; self pollination — the transfer of pollen to the stigma within the same flower through shedding; and artificial pollination — hand pollination by a human.

Performance varies in pollinators. Butterflies do not always efficiently pick up pollen with their bodies, legs or tongues, although they are helpful with pollinating certain plants. However, hummingbirds, with their long tubular bills, skillfully retrieve pollen from deep-throated flowers. 

Actually, the exceptional pollinators are bees. They intentionally collect nectar for energy and pollen for protein, and nature helps them gather this pollen with fuzzy bodies, special hind legs and abdomens, and electrostatic charge. 

Furthermore, some bees, especially bumblebees, buzz pollinate — move flight muscles rapidly, causing vibration in the anthers to better release pollen in self-pollinating plants like tomatoes. Because a large portion of food consumed is dependent on bees, they are worth billions to the global economy. 

Albert Einstein supposedly estimated that humans would only exist for four years if bees disappeared, therefore the noticeable population decrease in these insects is alarming. Habitat loss and degradation threaten wild species. Consequently, growers rent or purchase bees (commercial crops are primarily pollinated by honey bees), but managed bees suffer from parasites, pathogens and pesticides. 

In some regions of China, where pesticides have discouraged bumblebees in apple and pear crops, artificial pollination is necessary.

Most essential is the pollination of trees. Besides providing food and shelter, trees are the lungs of the earth — they release oxygen. They also furnish fuel. Sunken, compressed trees ultimately become coal which fuels electricity. How about pines (conifers) which produce turpentine through the distillation of their resin? 

Obviously, pollination is crucial. The sudden urge to swat annoying bees or destroy any pollinators should be repressed. These beings may determine whether there are delicious apples to savor or colorful flowers to smell. And these flowers will in turn attract needed pollinators.