If you’ve been keeping up with previous posts on the Great Lakes, Great Bees Blog, you already know that bees are very diverse and also very important for our crops and natural ecosystems. In fact, there are over 20,000 bee species in the world and over 450 different bee species in Michigan alone. With this diversity comes many different roles. Some bees are specialists, like the squash bee (Peponapsis pruinosa), meaning that they pollinate just one or a few different plants. Other bees, like the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) or the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens), are generalists, meaning that they will pollinate many different types of plants. Our native plants and our crops rely on both generalists and specialists for pollination. We need all types of bees to keep our world in balance.
The squash bee (Peponapsis pruinosa) is a specialist that pollinates curcurbit plants. Squash bee males sleep in closed curcurbit flowers overnight, like the one pictured here. Picture by Jason Gibbs.
Although bees are undoubtedly important, we often forget that other animals pollinate too. Beetles, moths, flies, butterflies, bats, birds, some primates, and even some lizards will act as pollinators. Did you know that chocolate is pollinated by midges and that many mangoes are pollinated by bats? We benefit from the tasty treats that pollinators provide.
Because there is so much to learn about all of our amazing pollinators and what they do for us, the Michigan Pollinator Initiative team has created a free, self-paced online course called Pollinator Champions. Offered through Michigan State University, the course is packed full of videos, articles, and fun activities that provide a broad view of issues around pollinators and their health. Anyone with an internet connection can enroll. You do not have to be an MSU student or faculty to participate.
Everyone can join Pollinator Champions for free, but for a small contribution, you can also receive a certificate and materials to help you give your own presentations about pollinators. By building a community of champions for pollinators, hopefully pollinators will get the recognition that they deserve. Help us spread the word as an MSU Certified Pollinator Champion!
Read more or register for the course on the Pollinator Champions webpage.
You can also read more about pollinators on the Michigan Pollinator Initiative website.