The relationship between flowers and their pollinators is more complicated than you may realize. For instance, did you know that bees are smarter than you think when it comes to choosing which blooms to visit?
Or would it surprise you to learn that there’s an ulterior motive behind plants that attract birds versus bees?
Would you guess that flowers and pollinators are tighter than you suspect?
The underlying factor is evolution. Contrary to popular belief, life doesn’t stand still. It's responsive to the changes that the environment imposes on it. The exciting thing is to tease apart the forces in how flower pollination occurs.Evolution Is the Play Caller
The mission of any organism from an evolutionary perspective is to survive long enough to reproduce. They pass on their genes to the next generation, carrying on their legacy. It’s no different with the flower pollination process, albeit with a different strategy.
Flowers have several players in their court to disperse their seeds to take their genes to the next generation.
There are birds that eat them and deposit them in different places.
Bees' pollination of flowers allows them to share the pollen they collect.
Wind may transport them to another place.
Wildlife may eat them, too, or just brush against them to move them.
Flowers have adapted to make the most of birds and bees pollination.Bees Maximize Their Advantage
Bees get nectar and energy from pollination. They also make the most of it by choosing a larger bud form that increases their chances of success.
That gives big flowers an evolutionary advantage over smaller ones because they have more sugar. The large size makes them more noticeable. That optimizes the pollinators’ energy use since they can find them quicker.
However, flowers score some points, too.
Bees are a lot smarter or at least logical than you may think. They observe and learn which flowers have the most energy-rich nectar by watching other pollinators. It’s simple to figure out which ones get the most visitors.
Bees also learn what the safe zones are from these observations and share this information with other bees. It’s a behavior you’ll see in birds, too. Alarm calls benefit all prey species. The pollinators get the best bang for their buck while the flowers can reproduce.Flowers Make It Easier for the Bees
Caffeine is a good thing if you want to stay alert and productive. It stimulates the central nervous system in just the right ways.
It turns out that bees have the same strategy as people with similar results. Research says that these pollinators make a beeline for the flowers with the most sugar and caffeine. These insects get a boost in energy and endurance.
Caffeine reduces the effects of insect predators. It increases plant growth and makes the flowers more robust. It’s logical that bees would also enjoy the benefits. Evolution has simply taken the same course to benefit pollinators and plants.
The most fascinating aspect of it is that it’s something we have in common with bees! We both get a buzz from the caffeine and reap similar benefits.Flowers Pick the Winners and Losers
Flowers benefit from pollination by adapting to the needs of the pollinators. Seed dispersal is another advantage with avian visitors. It turns out that flowers pick the winners and losers in their playing field.
Research shows that flowers can stack the deck in favor of the most efficient pollinators, namely, hummingbirds. They do it by confusing the bees and making them more attractive to the ones they want on the job.
It makes sense when you consider the facts. Pollen is a limited commodity. Flowers are driven by evolution to seek the most efficient path. In this case, that means birds.
Bear in mind that specialization isn’t a one-way path. If one organism is better served elsewhere, it doesn’t hurt a flower to encourage this adaptation. On the other hand, bees optimize their resources and choose flowers that are closest to the greatest payoff in the long run.Bees Look Out for Each Other
Flowers are the proverbial double-edged sword for bees. They provide nutrient-rich nectar, but it comes at a price. Predators can wipe out an entire colony. Therefore, it behooves bees to identify potential threats so they can stay safe to pollinate again.
Bees share some habits that provide benefits to other insects. It’s an evolutionary advantage that birds also share. They warn each other of danger, and in turn, receive the same notifications. Bees alert others with chemical signals of a predator. They can also identify a potentially dangerous situation.Flowers Direct the Way
Flowers have a huge stake in whether pollinators find them. As it turns out, they go the extra evolutionary step to how flowers pollinate.
They do it with their version of "approach lights" that exist in their petals, which makes it easier for light to reflect off them and make them more noticeable. Those adaptations make the flowers quicker for bees to spot and pollinate.Final Thoughts About Flowers and Pollination
Evolution happens rapidly in organisms with a short generation time. Whatever gives them an advantage will most likely lead to the largest number of offspring.
The relationship between flowers and their pollinators is a volatile one that changes quickly in response to environmental pressures. Bringing birds into the mix shows how complex these connections are and how each player responds differently.
The strategies benefit all the organisms involved in the process. That’s part of what makes studying them so fascinating. What is even more exciting is that the relationships continue to evolve. The generation time for all the species involved is short. The best part may be observing the next chapter.
Enjoy the story as it unfolds with farm-fresh, pick-and-pack florals from Country Greenery. You can rest assured knowing your blooms are sustainable and an environmentally friendly choice. Treat yourself or a loved one today.