Mary E. Barbercheck, Penn State University
Pollination, the transfer of pollen from male to female reproductive parts of the flower, can be carried out by wind or by animals such as insects, birds, and bats. Pollination by insects is essential for the production of fruit by many common crop plants. Some crops that require insect pollination include those in the rose family (for example, apples, pears, stone fruits, almonds), cucurbits (melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash), onions, and carrots. The most common insect pollinators in agricultural systems are bees. Flies, wasps, beetles, moths, and butterflies can also serve as pollinators. Commercially, honeybees are by far the most common managed pollinator. Other kinds of pollinators, for example, bumblebees, orchard mason bees, and leaf cutter bees are cultured and sold for managed pollination. The farm landscape can be managed to conserve native pollinators, which may compensate for a lack of pollination by honeybees (Black et al., 2007).
Figure 1. Cuckoo wasp (Family: Chrysididae) on goldenrod (Solidago sp.). Photo credit: Rajwinder Singh, Dept. of Entomology, Penn State University.
Figure 2. A bumblebee, Bombus vagans, on a thistle flower. Photo credit: Rajwinder Singh, Dept. of Entomology, Penn State University.
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