- Cacao, dear to my heart, is actually pollinated by midges! (No, not midgets, though I wonder if that's where the Oompa Loompas came from!) -- tiny gnats, essentially. Hurray, little gnats!
- And mangoes are primarily pollinated by the insect order diptera, that is: flies. Not the glamorous honey bee, but plain old flies.
- For coffee, we have the honey bee to thank. Thanks!
Some other fun pollination factoids:
- The fig tree -- a keystone species (well, actually there are over 1000 fig species) of the rainforest ecosystem, responsible for feeding many, many critter species all year around -- is pollinated entirely by tiny fig wasps -- and yes, for each species of fig, there is a specific species of wasp.
- Butterfly-pollinated flowers tend to be brightly colored but not fragrant, since butterflies have poor senses of smell.
- Moths, however, have excellent sense of smell, and pollinate very sweet-smelling, night-blooming flowers, generally pale in color to be visible by moonlight.
- Get this: Moths are hover-feeders (like hummingbirds), and moth-pollinated flowers have deep tubes that correspond exactly to the length of the pollinator species' tongues! WOW!
- Bat-pollinated flowers smell musty and kind of funky, and they have to be sturdy to withstand the bats' bristly licking tongues. Having observed bats licking certain, er, body parts, at the zoo, I would say this would have to be a sturdy flower.
- Over 90 food crops in the US depend on honey bee pollination. Honey bee colonies are transported around to fulfill this function in, for example, the almond orchards of California. The value of this service performed for free by the bees is worth an estimated $18 billion in this country annually. I read another estimate last week (can't remember where) that the annual global value of pollination could come in at around $70 billion.
- Honey bees are in crisis. An estimated 40-60% of the honey bees in the US died or were severely weakened in 2005. California lost half of its bees! The Varoa mite is blamed for this crisis, and though this isn't getting wide-scale media coverage, it is a very serious matter if you happen to like to eat plants or to eat animals that eat plants, which I guess most of us do. The losses in 2007 to bee colonies are being called "unprecedented." Weird that there's not more talk about this!
So: pollination. Yay! Yay bees and midges and wasps and moths and bats and everything else. Thank you for feeding us. Thank you for flowers.
P.S. I am no scientist. Feel free to correct me on anything above or to tell me more. Thanks!
*Update*--thanks Tinker, for the link. The honey bee crisis is being called Colony Collapse Disorder and is very serious, and more can be read about it here.