What makes pollinators so special?

The animals we have been talking about so far - butterflies, moths, bees, hummingbirds, even some kinds of bats - are all considered pollinators. They are called pollinators because they play an important role in moving pollen from plant to plant - a process called pollination. Pollination is a critical step in the life cycle of most plants, including some that provide the food we eat!

How does an animal pollinate?

Just like a mail carrier who moves mail and packages from place to place, pollinators move pollen from flower to flower.

As you might have observed, pollinators REALLY like to hang out around flowers. The flowers not only provide a good place to rest and hide, they also produce a sweet liquid called nectar that pollinators love to drink. When a pollinating animal lands on the flower to drink nectar, it gets covered in the powdery pollen that is so important to plant reproduction. As the pollinator moves from flower to flower in search of more nectar, it spreads around the pollen that is all over its body.

Mexican Long Tongued Bat
But what exacly is pollen and why should we care if it moves between plants?