Last week we got the opportunity to sit on in some of the presentations at the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) conference in Arlington, VA. A few of these talks mentioned or focused on unusual pollinators. To me, when I think pollinator I immediately think bee and I would guess it is the same for many of us here at the Bee Informed Partnership. However, NAPPC does not just focus on honey bees, but seeks to make the public aware of all pollinators whether they are flying mammals, other insects, or reptiles.
One pollinator in particular that was mentioned brought back a terrifying childhood memory I swear I will never forget as long as I live. As creatures of the night associated with Halloween, I find it appropriate to mention bats as pollinators.
During the day, honey bees and other insects work to pollinate the flowers that flourish in the sunlight, but once darkness falls bats come out of hiding and begin their work. Because of their extremely limited sight, bats are drawn to large flowers that open at night. Generally, these floras are highly fragrant and are pale colored making them easier to locate during the night. A bat can visit up to 30 flowers over the course of the night feeding on pollen and also transferring what sticks to their body from flower to flower. Combined with the high numbers of flowers visited in one night and the far distances bats travel to get to certain flowers, they are expert pollinators and cross pollinators.
If you’re anything like me, bats as pollinators are fascinating, but you’d rather never encounter one. Luckily for me, these plant feeding species are mostly found in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Two species can be found in the US in the spring as they migrate from Mexico to Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Bananas, mangoes, guavas, and the agave plant, which is used to make Tequila (thank you bats! Or, on second thought, maybe not) are dependent upon bats for pollination.
Thank you for pollinating my favorite fruit, but please stay away from me and my hair.