It’s National Pollinator Week (June 17-23, 2019).
Right in time to participate, I caught a pollinator on video last week.
As I was walking past a sweet potato bush (also known as blue potato bush, Lycianthes rantonnetii) I heard a familiar “bizzzzz” sound.
You may have to turn up your speaker because it isn’t very loud. I apologize for the background sounds. It is near a school.
Do you know why the bee is making that sound?
The answer has to do with the structure of the flower. At the bright yellow center are a tight bundle of anthers, the structures that make pollen. The visiting bee bites down on the anthers, curls her abdomen around them and vibrates. When she does this, pollen comes spilling out like when we shake salt from a shaker.
The pollen that falls onto the bee’s body goes back to the nest to be used as food. If any of the pollen brushes onto or hits the female parts of the flower (stigma), the flower is pollinated. Because the vibration makes a sound we can hear, it is called buzz pollination.
A number of species of solitary bees –including carpenter bees — and bumble bees will visit this type of flower, but honey bees do not. I’ve noticed that the smaller bees make a higher-pitched sound like this one.
If you have ever eaten a tomato grown in a greenhouse, it was probably thanks to buzz pollination. Growers use bumble bees to pollinate tomatoes indoors and ensure a healthy crop.
So, the next time you hear a buzz, look around. It might be a pollinator in action.
If you’d like to find out more about National Pollinator Week activities, visit their website.