If the wind was the only pollinator – there would be no brightly coloured flowers! Millions of years ago insects learned that pollen was excellent food; and plants found that pollen-covered insects were more effective as pollinators than the wind. Plants therefore developed bright flowers as signals to attract the insects as well as nectar to reward them.
The best known and most important pollinator is the bee. Adult bees spend more of their time visiting flowers than any other flower visitor. Unlike other insect or animal pollinators, they are dependent on pollen and nectar at all stages of their life cycle. Bees play a vital role in ensuring that plants and trees form seeds and fruit, which in turn feed many other living creatures.
Garden monocultures that deplete the soil and provide a sumptuous feast for pests are not good for bees. Gardens with a wide variety of flowering plants, shrubs and trees – flowering at different times of the year – always have food for bees. Multifunctional plants that are rich food sources for wildlife as well as for humans – also create beautiful gardens.
Bees can be killed by using certain pesticides. Scientists believe that the recent decline in honeybee colonies worldwide is a result of using pesticides. The loss of bees will have a catastrophic effect on the planet’s entire food system.
A future article will include recipes for easy to make, non toxic alternatives to pesticides for use in gardens.
~ Leonie Twentyman-Jones