Wednesday 19 April 2023

A to Z challenge 2023 – P is for . . .


A to Z challenge 2023 – P is for . . .

My theme for this challenge is Nature in all much of her wonderful diversity. My posts will reflect the fact that I am resident in the south of England.

All photographs in this post are the property of the writer.


Marmalade hoverfly on cornflower

The first beasties that come to mind as pollinators are bees and butterflies, but birds, moths, flies, beetles and wasps all play their part. Even small mammals like mice can contribute to the greater good.

Honey bee on pyracantha

Robins, blackbirds, blue tits and starlings are among the birds that are classed as pollinators. Even humans can be responsible for accidentally transferring pollen from one place to another. (Some do it deliberately, with a fine paintbrush. I had a sudden vision then of someone wielding a house-painter’s brush, maybe even a roller!)

Bumble bee in nasturtium

Some of the pollinators have interesting habits. For example, the bumblebees, those big furry insects that tempt one to stroke them, vibrate their bodies to dislodge pollen. The bees then comb the pollen off their bodies into little baskets on their legs. This is called buzz pollination and while most of the pollen is taken back to the nest to feed their young, some will be transferred to the next flowers the bees visit.

Bumble bee with pollen grains

Some species of bumblebees can fly at around 15 kilometres an hour – that’s 9.3 miles per hour. The average walking speed of a reasonably fit human is 3 to 4 miles per hour!

Marmalade hoverfly going about its business

Marmalade hoverflies (Episyrphus balteatus) are prodigious pollinators and extremely migratory, able to travel hundreds of miles a day. Billions of them fly in and out of southern Britain every year, carrying copious amounts of pollen. They visit almost three quarters of global food crops and over 70% of wildflowers. They also feed on aphids, so do double service.

Blackbird in honeysuckle

Not all bees live in communities, and the pantaloon bee (Dasypoda hirtipes) is one I haven’t seen, but I love the name. She is one of nearly 250 species of solitary bees and sports a host of long orange hairs on her hind legs, which convey the pollen back to the nest.

Bumble bee  with rapidly filling basket of pollen

Wasps (Vespula vulgaris) have their purpose, too, as pollinators. They have high energy requirements, so search out flower nectar. In the process, pollen sticks to their bodies, so even though they are not as hairy as bees, they are still important pollinators. Remember that, the next time you attempt to swat one!

Cabbage white feeding. Enlarge photograph to see the tongue

Gatekeeper butterfly feeding on scabious

Essex skipper on thistle

Moths and butterflies also collect pollen on their bodies as they search for nectar.

Juvenile starling in honeysuckle

Beetles have been important pollinators for millions of years. Some have adapted to a pollen-rich diet, while others, like the ladybirds, enjoy pollen as a pleasant addition to their usual diet of aphids. 

Dusty-looking six spot ladybird on pansy

Around 1000 species of the UK’s beetles, about a quarter of the total, are pollinators. Some are dedicated pollinators while others pollinate incidentally, moving pollen as they travel around.





  1. I've seen bees here with fat pockets of pollen on their back legs, there is a hive in a tree hollow near my home.

    1. You sometimes wonder how they manage to fly with such loads.

  2. The bumble bee dislodging the nasturtium has just about disappeared inside the flower. It also looks like a safe and pleasant place to rest.

  3. I've heard people say they've seen bees asleep in flowers. I'm still waiting for that delight.

  4. Wow, your photos are gorgeous ! How did you do that ? laying on your belly in the grass and shooting with a big zoom ? I see the picture !

  5. An infinitely fascinating topic, pollination!

    1. We rely on so many often unseen pollinators - our crops would otherwise fail.

  6. I cannot wait to show your post to my two great grandsons. Your posts do not disappoint.

  7. Ahh, too kind. I hope they will enjoy the photographs.

  8. The speed with which bumblebees fly is quite amazing. Didn't know that.

  9. Another fascinating post accompanied by fantastic photos. I love bumblebees, and they seem to love our garden, which is not surprising as it's the only one in our terrace which isn't tiled or concreted over! xxx

    1. I'm sure the bumblebees really appreciate your garden x

  10. These are excellent pollinator photos. My personal favorite is the cornflower photo. I find its blue color irresistible -- and apparently so does the pollinator :-)


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