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Plant-pollinator mutualisms and biodiversity

A plant-pollinator mutualism is an association between a plant and a pollinator wherein each partner benefits from the other. Typically, the plant is cross-pollinated with other plants of the same species—a system which mixes the genetic material and creates strong and vigorous seeds. The pollinator gets pollen and nectar—or both—which it uses to nourish itself […] Read more

Can a Texas bluebonnet change its spots?

Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) are prolific in the early spring and are known for attracting an array of native bees as well as honey bees. This species is one of the five state flowers of Texas, the other four being also in the genus Lupinus. (We’ve all heard strange things about Texans, so we’ll just […] Read more

The essence of beekeeping is not in the hive

I have an entire shelf filled with nothing but bee books. I have another shelf filled with nothing but books on gardening and field crops. So far, none of this is surprising. What is surprising, though, is that most of the bee books hardly mention plants and most of the plant books barely mention bees. […] Read more

Climate change affects nectar collection patterns

A few days ago I wrote about the need for citizen scientists to collect data on wild bee species. Well, here’s another interesting project—one that deals with climate change and nectar collection. Wayne Esaias, a biological oceanographer and beekeeper from Maryland, has been tracking the dates of nectar collection by his bees for 15 years. […] Read more

Foraging habits of different types of bees

Bees may be grouped into three categories based on their foraging habits. Bees that prefer only a small number of flowering species are known as oligolectic. The advantage to the plant kingdom from this behavior is enormous, since it assures cross-pollination within a single species. A few species of bee are known to pollinate one—and […] Read more

Why bees pollinate plants that don’t need it

Cross pollination—the moving of pollen from the flowers of one plant to the flowers of another—is usually accomplished by wind or animals. There are a few other vectors, including water and gravity, but wind and animals are the main ones. Many animals move pollen—including bats, birds, and butterflies—but bees of one species or another do […] Read more

Pollinators and vegetable gardens

Yesterday a reader asked if having a pollinator garden would help her vegetable garden. The answer to this is somewhat complex, depending on what you are trying to grow. There are general rules and exceptions. If you are growing any kind of cucurbit—including melons, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, and gourds—pollinators are absolutely essential. Some are notoriously […] Read more