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Monday, December 28, 2009

POLLINATORS. Robbers and thieves

Some flowers allow only specialized pollinators. They place their nectar out of the reach of most visitors and only those with a long enough tongue can reach it. Such is the case of the bee balm or monarda; a flower visited by hummingbird moths and bumblebees
A hummingbird moth unfurls its long tongue and sticks it inside the equally long throat of a bee balm flower.

The tongue of a bumblebee isn't as long as that of moths or butterflies, but by burying itself into the flower this visitor can reach the store of nectar without difficulty.
These visitors approach the flower the "legitimate" way, meaning that they touch the pollen carrying parts and also the female parts of the flower by entering it this way. When they do so they carry pollen from some flowers to others and accomplish pollination. Everybody benefits; the insects get nourishment and the flowers are pollinated. However this flower's strategy may backfire when clever and lazy flower visitors take a shortcut and steal the nectar. One very common robber is the carpenter bee; with its powerful jaws it can easily slash through a flower's tissues. Here a female carpenter bee is opening the throat of a bee balm flower. When this bee goes directly to the nectar bypassing the sexual parts of the flower it doesn't pick up or carry pollen. As a consequence, it doesn't help the flower at all.
A carpenter bee stealing some nectar
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© Beatriz Moisset. 2010

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