Pollinating insects play a key role in the reproduction of plant species. Without them, the reproduction of flowers would be impaired, which would also prevent the formation of fruits and seeds, and would considerably limit the diet with all the nutritional diversity it currently provides us with.
What is pollination?
Apart from a very small proportion of plants that are hermaphroditic and can self-fertilize, for a flower to become a fruit it must be fertilized, i.e. the pollen (male gamete) must reach the pistil, the ovaries, the female organ.
The wind can take care of this task when the pollen grains are very light, but the vast majority of plants need external help from pollinating insects.
The transport of pollen from one flower to the egg of another is called pollination, it is called reproduction. In order for the insect to be attracted to the flower, the flower secretes a sweet nectar which the insect eats by rubbing itself with the stamens whose pollen is deposited on the insect. While going to forage another flower, it will still rub itself, leaving a little pollen that it carries, on the female organ of this second flower.
Who are the pollinating insects?
Under the general name of “pollinating insects” hides a small but discreet but very valiant world that ensures a vital function on our planet: pollination.
By their movements on flowers, insects transport pollen from one to the other and thus ensure their fertilization.
Reproduction is then possible and the flowers thus pollinated will be able to produce seeds. Note that these insects participate in the fertilization of 80% of plants which without them could not reproduce, that is to say their importance!
The main pollinating insects are bees, especially “Apis domestica” our common bee, but also all the many species of the genus.
Distant cousins, bumblebees are very active, especially at the very beginning of the season and even in winter, because they tolerate the cold better than bees and ensure early pollination. Osmies and wasps also play an important role, just as much as xylocopes, those robust insects with bluish-black reflections roaring in our orchards!
Some flies, such as syrphes, are also excellent pollinators, the latter having the particularity of laying larvae directly on plants invaded by aphids so that they can feed on them; an exemplary gardener’s helper!
Another insect with a slender and light appearance: the butterfly. It dips its long proboscis in nectar and carries pollen on its hairy body, also participating in the reproduction of plants.
Beetles, like the golden ketone, also do their part in the renewal of the flora.
Threatened pollinating insects
The impact of human activity on nature is constantly reducing the populations of pollinating insects. Massive urbanization, intensive farming, especially monoculture, which implies the appearance of green deserts, the irrational use of pesticides and insecticides, the rarefaction of wild hedges and wasteland all contribute to this insidious disappearance of insect populations.
How to help pollinating insects?
To effectively help pollinating insects, simply let nature take its course. Creating a few fallow areas in the garden, planting a variety of hedges, installing a small water point and above all avoiding the use of phytosanitary products are all simple actions that are beneficial to insects.
You can go even further, by offering them refuges or by building a “hotel” made of recycled objects, which will be specially dedicated to them!
How does a bug hotel work?
Birds are no longer the only guests in the garden to benefit from nesting boxes: from now on, auxiliary insects are also entitled to hotels, i.e. shelters designed to attract them, keep them and offer them a home where they can reproduce. These “insect hotels” are multiplying all over France, both in private homes and in gardens open to the public.
Winter is a good time to install such shelters: since gardening work is becoming rarer, there is a little more time to tinker with a luxury hut for the winged inhabitants of the garden. You can also buy a ready-made shelter in garden centers or on the Internet. By installing the shed before the end of winter, you will have a better chance of seeing it occupied as early as March. The variety of insects that you can accommodate will increase over the months and years.
How to attract pollinating insects?
Caring for your plantation
Shrubs and perennials are planted after the great cold, from the end of winter in the South of France. In wet, soggy or frozen soils, wait until spring. Choose seedlings sold in buckets or containers.
Open a hole 2 to 3 times larger than the root ball: this is important because this volume of loosened soil encourages root development. Fertilizer is not necessary. Once in the ground these plants are resistant if you do not let them run out of water the first summer.
Honey plants in urban areas
If you grow vegetables on the balcony or terrace, welcome honey plants to increase yields. As space is limited, choose those that combine aesthetics, fragrance and flavor. Among aromatic plants, dill, coriander, sage, thyme and savory have attractive flowers.
For the pleasure, add purple lavender and nasturtiums or marigolds. In all cases, use well-drained soil for indoor or Mediterranean plants. Keep it cool, but never soggy.
Pollination can take several forms. Whether through animals, insects or wind. When flowers use the wind to disperse pollen, we speak of anemogamy. This type of pollination allows the plant to exchange pollen without being totally dependent on the foragers but it is much less efficient because the grains fly in all directions and only a tiny part will reach its target.
But the most common form of pollination is through a pollinating animal, which is called zoogamy. In this case, the pollinators are attracted to the nectar produced by the plants. When they come to forage, they will feed on the nectar and pollen. The pollen will then remain attached to the animal’s hair, feathers or skin.
It is while passing from flower to flower that the pollinators will disperse the pollen and thus allow the fertilization of these flowers. This is how plants reproduce!