Have fun and learn how insects pollinate flowers in this hands-on Bugwise activity.
Who are the pollinators?
Fast fact: Charles Darwin found a very long tubular flower in the South American jungle and predicted someday someone would find an insect with a tongue of matching length to reach the nectar at its base. After much searching and over one hundred years later, a moth was found. More recently an even longer tube flower has been found in Madagascar and the search in on for the insect pollinator.
Pose the focus question
Who are the pollinators? List and display all answers and questions as they arise.
What does pollinate mean? To pollinate means to mix the male (pollen) and female (stigma and ovule) parts of the flower so the flower can reproduce. If you get stuck, read through What is pollination as a class.
Move out to the playground or garden for plant and insect interaction. Structure the activity to maximise observation data (see Structuring field observations for guidelines). Ask your students to work in groups to make observations. Use the matrix – Plants and insects in our garden – as a way to record your observations.
Collate all data and reflect on observations back in the classroom. Discuss the following terms and develop class definitions for them: pollen, pollination, and pollinator. Pose the following questions to the class if you get stuck.
- How is the insect benefiting by its visits to the flowers?
- Can a flower reproduce without an insect pollinator?
- What would happen if there were no pollinators?
As a class, discuss the purpose an insect has for visiting the flower. Find a banksia or other flower heavy with nectar, and pass it around the class.
Assess your students understanding by posing the following questions.
- What would happen in the life cycle of the plant if part of the plant was removed?
- What would happen if bees were extinct?
- Could you create a flower that might attract only short-tongued bees? Only butterflies? Only moths? What would it look like?
- Research and present on a species of native bee.
- Make a bee pollinator to model insect and flower interactions.
- Revisit the garden with a key for pollinators and their preferred flower types.
- Use the identification key to create a picture of insect diversity in your garden.
- 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.