Insects in the Landscape: Pollinators

Nathan Riggs

There are more than 1 million species of insects identified on Earth, and scientists believe there are millions more that are still undiscovered.

Within these species, experts agree that 98 percent of insects are considered to be beneficial or benign in some fashion, with the remaining two percent considered to be pests that cause damage or disease. These insects occupy niches in every ecosystem except the deepest oceans and polar locales.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the ones we know about and the roles they play in your landscape. This article is the first of an occasional series that will take a look at some of the insects that serve as pollinators of fruit, flowers and trees in your landscape. Without pollination, many of the world’s fruit crops, flowers and other plants would not be able to procreate.

There are many avenues of pollination in the landscape, but the most common occurs thanks to insects, including:

  • Bees — While honeybees are the first to come to mind, bumblebees and solitary species including carpenter bees, orchard bees, mason bees and digger bees, are extremely important pollinators as well and shouldn’t be discounted. A gardener can encourage solitary bees to nest in their landscape by building nest boxes for them. Many solitary bees are stingless, and those that do have stingers sting only if absolutely threatened.
  • Beetles — When beetles feed on pollen, it covers their bodies and is transferred as they move from flower to flower. Examples of pollenating beetles include flower scarabs, soldier beetles and tumbling flower beetles.
  • Butterflies — Butterflies only visit flowers to feed on nectar, but they still serve to move pollen between flowers. The pollen is deposited on the butterfly’s feet as it tastes the flower for the presence of nectar. Yes, butterflies taste with their feet!

These articles don’t cover everything, so use them as a basis to explore and learn even more about the wondrous insect world. And to see some great pictures of a few of the pollinators around the San Antonio area, visit our Pollinator Gallery.

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