At last week’s Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, I was delighted to meet Ms. Becky Ruppel, who has done graduate work in biology and is a volunteer at the Wildflower Center.
She also studied the Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), an invasive species from the Mediterranean that threatens the native diversity and rangeland in Colorado.
Hummingbirds see red
Ms. Ruppel talked with me about how important pollinators are to our ecosystem to help plants reproduce. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.
Hummingbirds can see red, and that’s why they are attracted to plants with red flowers, such as Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii).
When hummingbirds go to feed on nectar, the pollen from the male part of the flower (the anther) collects on their bills. When they fly over to feed with another flower, they pass the pollen to the female part of the flower (the pistil) as part of the pollination process to help the flower form a seed.
Colony collapse disorder (CCD)
We also talked about colony collapse disorder. A few years ago, I saw a PBS Nature program, Silence of the Bees, about this tragedy affecting our honey bees who are pollinators and that live in colonies.
Beginning in 2006, for some unknown reason, honey bees from entire hives began to disappear. They just get sick and fly off to die. Since bees are a major pollinator, this puts many of our plants, especially our food crops, at risk.
Ms. Ruppel mentioned some of the factors scientists think might be causing it, such as pesticides, diseases, or mites, but she said that they haven’t been able to pinpoint one cause and be able to treat it yet. CCD may be due to many factors.
If honey bees are in decline, she said that our native solitary bees may be able to take their place as pollinators, such as mason bees. Landowners could leave areas of their property in a natural state and place ground features such as pieces of wood to help encourage the mason bees to make their homes there.
I hope they are able to help our honeybees soon!
Nature Nights: Power of Plants coming this week
Don’t forget that I’m bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center as part of Nature Nights on Thursday, July 5, at 6:00 p.m. Bring your entire family to this free event and learn more about the Power of Plants!