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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pollinators and Blustery Days

This post is a result of a Laramie citizen, Lindsey, sending in her question about how pollinators deal with wind.  And to address her question is Scott Schell, University of Wyoming Assistant Extension Entomologist.  Scott is a terrific entomologist who helps us a lot with pollinator-related topics, even though his research expertise is grasshoppers.  Thanks Scott!

Do you have a question about or related to the green roof?  Send them in to brenna.marsicek@uwyo.edu and you just might have it featured in the blog!

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Lindsey's Question:

How do pollinators deal with the Wyoming wind?   [A friend] and I were talking about how we didn't know how our fruit trees were going to be pollinated if all the flowers blew away in these crazy winds, given that flowers attract bees.

I've just been pondering how these little buggers go about getting their work done when they weigh so little and southeastern Wyoming has been dealing out 30+ mph winds.


Scott's Answer: 

You have cause to worry about successful pollination of your fruit trees when they bloom during low temperature and/or high wind conditions.  In studies conducted in apple orchards, bad weather can drastically reduce fruit set because it reduces insect pollination visits.     

Honey bees (the Entomological Society of America uses the two word name) generally don’t do much foraging when ambient temperatures are below 55 F and/or when wind speeds exceed 20 to 25 mph.  At the official Laramie NOAA weather station, May, 2013 had 14 days with official highs below 60 F and the wind speeds gusted to over 20 mph everyday except two.   
 
A bumble bee foraging on a low growing pasqueflower
(Anemone patens) in early April.  Scott Schell photo.

On bad weather days, honey bee pollination is usually limited to flowers within a few hundred feet of the hives and the warm, leeward sides of blooming trees within that distance.  Honey bees will also switch to low growing flowers such dandelions, were the wind speed slows at the boundary between the air and ground.  Temperatures are usually much warmer next to the ground on cold, sunny days too.   
 

Native pollinators, such blow flies, sweat bees, digger bees, and bumble bees can handle worse weather conditions, up to point.  Many of the early spring flowering native plants that depend on insect pollination also make it easier for their pollinators by blooming low to the ground were it is warmer and calmer.

 
“Insect Pollination of Cultivated Crop Plants”  USDA ARS Agriculture handbook N. 496  

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