milkweed

Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed. Monarch caterpillars need milkweed plants to grow and develop, and female monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed. With shifting land management practices, we have lost much milkweed from the landscape. We encourage our guests to plant milkweed to support monarch populations, and their incredible migration! Planting milkweed is a great way to help other pollinators too, as milkweed provides nectar resources to a diverse suite of bees and butterflies.

The process of pollination is essential to plant reproduction, the health of an ecosystem and to people as well. Learn about the importance of pollination in an ecosystem and the effect it is has on plants and people! Look for the Milkweed for Monarchs station near “World of the Insect.”

Take Action!

Since 2015, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has passed out over 7000 milkweed seed packets.  You too can take action to help pollinators in your own backyards!  If you pledge to plant them, you can have a packet of seeds to take home.  Document your pledge at the “Milkweed for Monarchs” selfie-station and share the photo on social media using #cincyzoopic!

Other ways to promote and protect pollinators:

  • Cultivate native plants, especially those that provide nectar and larval food for pollinators.
  • Install houses for bats and native bees
  • Supply salt or mineral licks for butterflies and water for all wildlife
  • Reduce pesticide use
  • Substitute flower beds for lawns

The Process of Pollination

The Process of Pollination

Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred from the anther (male part) to the stigma (female part) of the plant, thereby enabling fertilization and reproduction. This takes place in the angiosperms, the flower bearing plants. Pollination occurs when pollen is moved within flowers or carried from flower to flower by pollinating animals such as birds, bees, and bats.

Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend. Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila. In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually. butterflies, moths, beetles, or other animals, or by the wind.

The transfer of pollen in and between flowers of the same species leads to fertilization, and successful seed and fruit production for plants.  Pollination ensures that a plant will produce full-bodied fruit and a full set of viable seeds. 

The Importance of Pollination to People

The Importance of Pollination to People

Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend. Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and tequila. In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.

Pollinator Decline

Pollinator Decline

Worldwide there is disturbing evidence that pollinating animals have suffered from loss of habitat, chemical misuse, introduced and invasive plan and animal species, and diseases and parasites. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) in the U.S. has lost over 50% of its managed honeybee colonies over the past 10 years. The causes of colony collapse disorder are unclear, but pesticides, malnutrition, mites and habitat problems such as a lack of native flowers available all play a role in CCD.

Common Pollinators in the Tri-state

Common Pollinators in the Tri-state

Bees are undoubtedly the most abundant pollinators of flowering plants in our environment. The service that bees and other pollinators provide allows nearly 70 percent of all flowering plants to reproduce; the fruits and seeds from insect pollinated plants account for over 30 percent of the foods and beverages that we consume. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems. Fruits and seeds derived from insect pollination are a major part of the diet of approximately 25 percent of all birds, and of mammals ranging from red-backed voles to grizzly bears. However, many of our native bee pollinators are at risk, and the status of many more is unknown. Habitat loss, alteration, and fragmentation, pesticide use, and introduced diseases all contribute to declines of bees.

While there are over 500 species of bees native to Ohio, a few species of larger bees can be seen regularly in the local garden, the honeybee, bumblebee, leaf-cutting bee and large mason bee.

All bees have three body parts, the head, thorax and abdomen. The head is large with multi-faceted eyes, antennae and mouthparts. The thorax is the middle segment that holds the wings and legs. The abdomen ends in a stinger in female bees. Female bees have special pollen carrying hairs are on the legs resemble broom bristles which carry the pollen they gather and take back to the hive for food.

Lepidoptera

 Lepidoptera

Butterflies and moths make up the order Lepidoptera, the fourth largest order of insects. These animals are beautiful to observe and make a valuable contribution to the ecosystem. Butterflies are very active during the day and visit a variety of wildflowers. Butterflies are less efficient than bees at moving pollen between plants. Highly perched on their long thin legs, they do not pick up much pollen on their bodies and lack specialized structures for collecting it. Butterflies probe for nectar, their flight fuel, and typically favor the flat, clustered flowers that provide a landing pad and abundant rewards. Butterflies have good vision but a weak sense of smell. Unlike bees, butterflies can see red.

 

 

Honey Bee

Light to dark brown body with pale and dark hairs in bands on abdomen. Pollen basket is present. Abdomen barrel shaped, heart shaped face. Colonies nest in man-made hives.

Bumble Bee

Robust bee with black body and bright yellow hairs. Long face. Pollen baskets present. Often forages in cloudy weather when other bees are at home!

 

Leaf-cutting Bee

leafcuttingbee

Black body with dark hairs. Pollen carrying hairs beneath. Some have a pointy abdomen. Head is broad as the abdomen with large mouthparts for cutting leaves.

Large Mason Bee

largemasonbee

Black body with light or dark hairs. Pollen carrying hairs on rear legs. Similar body shape to bumble bees but abdomen shiny with no hairs. Round face. Nests burrows in wood, often in the eaves of buildings and sheds. Flight is fast and  erratic like a hummingbird.

Beetles

Beetles are the most diverse group of organisms in the world. In fact, approximately one of every one species of plant, animal, bacterium, or fungus that has been described there are four types of beetle. As might be expected in such a large group, beetles are quite diverse in color, shape, and ecological role.

 

Flies

fliesfly

With over eighty-five thousand species worldwide, flies form one of the most diverse orders of insects, Diptera. Although a number of these species are reviled as crop pests and carriers of disease, many are beneficial – from the aquatic midges that serve as an abundant food source for migratory birds to the fly pollinators of apples, peppers, mangoes and cashews and many types of flowers.

Hummingbirds

hummingbird

Our local ruby-throated hummingbird also plays the role of a pollinator. While moving from flower to flower to get their nectar meal they inadvertently move pollen at the same time. Vertebrate pollinators are more common in the tropics which include bats, tree dwelling opossums, sunbirds and other lesser known small mammals and birds