Pollination by animals relies on flowers providing an attractant, usually nectar. Who are the pollinators?

Focus question:

Who are the pollinators?

Concepts and Key Words

anther butterflies insects pollinator stamen
bees flies pollen reproduction stigma
beetles fruit pollination seed wasps

Getting started

Pose focus question. List and display all answers and questions as they arise.

Explore the playground/garden for plant and insect interaction. Structure the activity to maximise observation data. (see support materials E for suggestions for structuring field observations) Work in groups to make observations Use the matrix - Plants and Insects in our garden - as a guide (see support materials B)

Explain - Collate all data and reflect on observations (pose questions - How is the insect benefiting by its visits to the flowers? How is the insect benefitting by its visits to the flowers? Lead to developing definitions for the terms, pollen, pollination, and pollinator. Record the definitions on large paper. Prompt questions could include: Who are the pollinators? Can a flower reproduce without an insect pollinator? What would happen if there were no pollinators?

Elaborate on the purpose for visiting the flower (for food). Choose a banksia heavy with nectar and demonstrate how Aboriginals extracted nectar for a sweet drink (see support materials G)

Evaluate development of understanding by posing questions (e.g What would happen in the life cycle of the plant if the stigma were removed? Bees were extinct?) Could you create a flower that might attract only short-tongued bees? Only butterflies? Only moths? Present all you know about native bees. Role-play with the bee pollinator made earlier. Revisit the garden with a key for pollinators and their preferred flower types (support materials J). Use the identification key (support materials H) to create a picture of insect diversity in your garden.

Support material

Underlying science

  • Flowers contain the reproductive parts of a plant. To enable pollen transfer and the development of seeds, many plants rely on insects (and other vectors e.g. wind and mammals) to ensure successful cross-fertilisation.
  • Many plants depend on animals, particularly insects, to transfer pollen as they forage. (Plant2pollinator only focuses on insect pollination, but reference should be made to all other biotic vectors – birds, mammals, reptiles and abiotic vectors - wind and water.)
  • Plants attract pollinators in various ways, by offering pollen or nectar meals and by guiding them to the flower using scent and visual cues. This has resulted in strong relationships between plants and the animals that pollinate them.