Did you know some plants don’t offer nectar? Did you know some plants don’t readily give up their pollen? Well, I was surprised to learn this. These plants depend upon buzz pollination to complete their reproduction.
What is buzz pollination?
As we’ve learned from earlier posts, bumblebees forage for nectar (energy) and pollen (protein). But buzz-pollinated flowers only offer pollen and they hide it besides.
The pollen for these buzz-pollinated plants is often hiden at the bottom of tall, skinny anthers. “The bee bites down at the base of the anther, leaving little marks called bee kisses. She “unhooks” her flying muscles from her wings so she can contract them without taking flight. Then she begins to vibrate violently, a behavior scientists call sonication.
The vibrations travel through her soft body to the flower and shake up the pollen grains trapped inside anthers. When she buzzes hard enough, the pollen shoots out of the top and covers the bee. The bumblebee grooms herself, combing the pollen down and mixing it with saliva. She stores the pollen in sacs stuck to her legs as she makes her rounds.” (PBS News Hour)
Food crops like blueberries, cranberries, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes and more require buzz-pollination. In fact, researchers have found buzz pollination being used by some 20,000 flowering plants. Video courtesy of Smithsonian Channel.
Anne Leonard, a biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno and her graduate and undergraduate assistants study buzz pollination.
See also another excellent video on buzz pollination by Deep Look This Vibrating Bumblebee Unlocks a Flower’s Hidden Treasure.