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The Q? Blog

Catch the Pollination Bug

by Devin Reese -- Jul 1, 2014
Devin Reese, smiling

Devin is the lead digital science writer for the Q?rius website. She writes and gathers media for the Smithsonian Science How? webcast series,...

Orange “nectar guides” act like runway lights to attract pollinators into the center of a Miltoniopsis orchid. Smithsonian photo by Devin Reese
Orange “nectar guides” act like runway lights to attract pollinators into the center of a Miltoniopsis orchid. Smithsonian photo by Devin Reese

People all over the U.S. were celebrating National Pollination Week last month. What’s to celebrate about pollination? I asked around the Smithsonian and found that there are as many reasons to celebrate pollination as there are types of bugs.

Take orchids, for example. In Q?rius at the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian’s Orchid Collection Specialist, Tom Mirenda, shared details of how orchids get pollinated. Each type of orchid is specialized for a particular pollinator.

Orchids are remarkably strategic in getting their pollinators to take notice of them. Tactics range from the straightforward -- a nectar reward at the base of a flower -- to the downright lurid.

A group of orchids called the Stanhopeinae attract a specific type of bees (Euglossines) by mimicking the look, feel, and smell of female bees. As the pitiable male bee struggles to mate a flower, he gets stuck with pollen that he carries to the next flower.

National Pollinator Week also meant people frolicked in the Smithsonian’s Pollinator Garden at a Pollination Party. Yes, you heard it right - a Pollination Party. Visitors were packaging up seeds to plant their own butterfly gardens, building mini bee condominiums, and answering pollination questions to score prizes.

Odd? Well, given that pollinators are responsible for helping reproduction of not only orchids, but also almonds, apples, basil, beans, blueberries, carrots, cherries, chocolate, coffee, melons, mint, peas, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, vanilla, and tequila, I guess they deserve a little recognition! To learn more about pollination, see the Q?rius page on Precious Pollinators.

Categories: Q?rius News
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