Buzz Pollination

by Sandy Swegel

We love pollinators at BBB Seed and we keep learning how many kinds of pollinators there are beside honeybees.  There are all the native bees and the moths and the flies.  Yesterday’s comely pollinator in my garden rounds was a giant bumblebee that was rather drunkenly going from iris to iris.  A bumblebee can be very big and noisy.  I could hear its buzz from several feet away. It was a delightful way to be digging weeds on a sunny day.

I wondered about the loud buzz and big hairy size of the bumblebee.  A little Googling later and sure enough, the buzzing is an important part of the pollination. I love how this bee pollinates. It has its own kind of pollination: buzz pollination.

The bumblebee flies up to the flower and literally grabs onto the flower tubule and starts to vibrate up to 1000 times a minute.  All that vibration makes the loud buzz.

Botanist Mario Vallejo-Marín wrote in a fancy scientific journal about buzz pollination: “The bumblebee has to hold on because the vibrations are so strong that otherwise, it could come flying off the flower.”

Wow.  Just to make the process even more dramatic, the bumblebee maximizes its pollen pickup by using its hairy body to create static electricity as it flies. As soon as that bumblebee hits the pollen, say hello to static cling.

Bumblebees remind me of Tim Allen’s old TV show Home Improvement.  Tim always wanted “More Power” when working in his shop.  The bumblebee has “more power”! Its little motor generates a powerful electrostatic field.  Then its bee vibrating motor sends pollen flying everywhere which effortlessly clings to its hairy body like Velcro.

Gotta love how clever nature is.

Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumblebee

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