Walk past a garden and you might hear a bumblebee buzzing nearby from flower to flower. This helps pollinate flowers, but did you know bumblebees are part of an exclusive club that gives them access to pollen from certain types of flowers?
Most flowers have easy access to pollen, with a sugary nectar that attracts bees. Bees get covered in pollen and transfer it to other flowers, which helps them reproduce. However, there are types of flowers that don’t offer nectar. The only way for bumblebees to get pollen from these flowers is by vibrating their wings. This shakes the bumblebees entire bodies and causes the pollen to fall out.
While this might be more work intensive for bumblebees, when they go to one of these flowers the chances of finding food are higher than with the flowers that don’t require buzz pollination because the other bees don’t know what to do.
“Buzz pollination is more like a private club. By only permitting pollinators that know the secret knock, the flower ups the chances that its pollen will end up on flowers from the same club, the same species.”
This video from PBS Digital Studios and KQED’s “Deep Look” explores the beauty of buzz pollination in bumblebees.
You can find an in-depth article on this phenomenon on the PBS Newshour website.