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Perfume For Pollinators
June 18, 2012

Computer glitches, my apologies for being late and any big errors.

I hope all dads and those of you that have filled the roll of dad, had a wonderful 'Fathers Day'.

Mine was nice and relaxing.

It isn't about gifts.

I don't ask for stuff, but something always manages to appear.

I know as I mature, I appreciate the day and my family more.

Another hot weekend and hot week ahead.

A down poor and horizontal rain this morning, Thank You Lord.

Even if most of it was run off, right now rain is rain.

About 1.5 inches in less thn an hour.

It is too early for a monster water bill, but what is a person to do?

Fireflies have been out for a couple of weeks, and seem to be peeking now.

For those of you that haven't experienced this marvel of nature, it can be a special sight.

Fireflies, especially the larvae fall into the beneficial insect category.

I've been watching the baby robins grow (pictured), and hoping to see them fledge.

(Parents are pictured below.)

I sat outside Saturday morning with my coffee and a book just in case.

A little rustling of the leaves and nothing else.

I looked up and they were gone.

Creation is 'Miraculous' .

Eggs are laid, incubated, hatched, babies and fledged, all within a month's time

We will be gone Wednesday through Saturday, as Karen, Yolanda, and I will take our annual trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Karen will do a little shopping, I get to see some history and the sights.

For Yolanda, it is a new experience every time as she can't remember many things. It is always a treat when she sees the Mackinac Bridge or Soo Locks for the first time (once again).

Any e-mail sent my way will get answered, but only when we get back home.

In honor of 'National Pollinator Week' (June 18-24), This weeks topic is a bit on pollinators and flowers that attract them.


Scratch 'n' sniff, cologne and perfume strips, and other forms of olfactory advertising.

People and animals use smells ans scents to attract others.

We clean up, dress up, splash on or spray on some smelly stuff in hopes of making ourselves more attractive and desirable.

Plants and flowers do the same thing, and advertise to select groups as well.

Perfume for Pollinators:

The truth is, plants have been doing this since the beginning of creation.

Plants advertise with fragrance in various ways.

For example: Plants often perfume their blooms to seduce the insects, bats, and other critters they need to pollinate their flowers.

In addition to a full belly, the pollinator leaves with pollen attached to its body in a bundle or dusted on its fur.

When the pollinator lands on another flower while loo king for its next meal, cross-fertilization can occur.

Scientists believe that one reason plants are in big trouble around the globe is because their pollinators are disappearing.

A major factor in their decline is loss of habitat to farms and urban development.

Without the Pollinators, the flowers of many species don't get fertilized. If they don't get fertilized, they don't set seed and can't reproduce.

In a pinch, some plants can pollinate themselves, but this often causes inbreeding and other genetic problems that ultimately threaten the species survival.

By creating gardens that feature a variety of fragrant flowers to attract a diversity of pollinators, we gardeners can help compensate for the loss of habitat and lend plants and their partners a helping hand.

As a bonus, we get whiffs of the heady scents ourselves.

Signature Scents:

Plants employ not just scent, but also visual cues like flower color to facilitate reproduction.

These are called Pollination Primers.

For example:

Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red (other colors too) and many red flowers don't have a strong smell that would attract bees.

Bees seem to prefer yellow and orange colors.

I digress.

Beetles were made to be attracted by certain smells.

Certain insects for certain smells.

This minimizes the competition and battles.

Although many insects are near sighted and some may be color blind (though tests show insects see in ultraviolet), they have a great sense of smell.

So, it's no big surprise that the magnolias and other flowers they still pollinate pack powerful perfumes.

Floral fragrance is far from an antiquated trait, however.

It seems that orchids, use it to captivate their reproductive partners.

In fact, although flowers can be identical in color and shape, no two floral fragrances are alike .

Every plant has its own signature scent, a complex mixture of volatile organic compounds that easily turn to gases and waft through the air.

Some 1,700 compounds have been identified in flower fragrances so far, according to Purdue University research that studied floral scents.

An orchid can produce a hundred different volatile compounds, while a snapdragon produces seven to ten.

Purdue's researchers recently isolated the gene for one of these compounds, methyl benzoate.

Some 30 to 40 commercially important plants—including snapdragons, flowering tobaccos, and petunias—use this same fragrance-generation system.

Intensive breeding for bigger, more colorful, and longer-lasting blooms during the past few decades evidently has deactivated the gene.

Which is why so many modern varieties are disappointing in the scent department. A plant that is pouring so much energy into producing flashier-looking flowers, is in essence too pooped to make perfume.

To date, little is known about how pollinators respond to the individual compounds found in flower scents.

But it is clear that they are capable of distinguishing among complex scent mixtures and therefore among plant species.

Since the beginning of time, 'Creation' has allowed for certain smells to attract certain insects and other pollinators

That's right, a designed, symbiotic relationship between plant and pollinator.

Breeders remove certain traits like smells and pollen for larger showier blooms, or plants that have other traits like tall, short, disease resistant, etc. , and then add some other traits and now, some plants and pollinators are in trouble.

They don't know each other.

You could say that it's all in the proboscis of the beholder (or antennae, the olfactory organs of bees, beetles, and moths). Pollinators are very picky about flower odors.

Bees for example, prefer the sweet scent of plants like snapdragons and sweet peas.

Beetles are partial to flowers with fruity and spicy scents, such as magnolias.

Moths, which are mostly nocturnal, are attracted to flowers such as jasmine, which advertise their presence under the cloak of darkness with strong, sweet perfumes.

Moths have a keen sense of smell and have even been known to pick up the scent of an enticing plant from 900 feet away.

Bats are also night fliers with good noses, but they favor blooms with musty aromas.

Most bats in the United States are insectivorous, but three flower-eating species migrate from Mexico to pollinate dozens of agave and giant cacti in the desert Southwest.

Lesser long-nosed bats, for example, take a predictable path in spring, following blooming cacti northward through the Sonoran Desert.

Most people don't think of flies as pollinators, but they play a critical role in the fertilization of some flowers.

Flies fancy blossoms that emit the essence of carrion or dung and look like lumps of rotting flesh.

Among their favorites are our native red trillium, which early naturalists christened "stinking benjamins" because of their stench.

Birds and most butterflies are olfactory challenged, so the flowers that depend on them for pollination don't waste time and energy on smelling beautiful.

Within the various groups of flower fertilizers there are generalists, which have cosmopolitan floral tastes,
and specialists, which have a monogamous relationship with the blossoms they visit.

Among the ultimate pollinator specialists are the moths that fertilize yuccas, which typically send up stout stalks of white flowers.

Yuccas, including about 30 species native to North America, such as the Spanish bayonet (Yucca schottii) and the Joshua tree (Y. brevifolia), are pollinated only by yucca moths, and 70 percent of yucca moth species visit the flowers of only one yucca species.

False Advertising:

Different flowers flaunt their fragrance at different times.

What's more, flowers show off their perfumes only when they are good and ready for fertilization.

Newly opened blossoms don't produce as much scent as mature ones do, and fertilized flowers not only make less fragrance but also lower-quality perfume.

It's useful to keep these things in mind when using fragrance in the
garden to help nurture plants and their pollinators.

Invite a variety of pollinators into your garden by offering a large and diverse mix of fragrant species, both day and night bloomers.

Plant favored species in drifts of at least three to five to attract pollinators and make it worth their while to visit.

Drifts and beds of multiples also help attract butterflies and hummingbirds as well.

Choose old-fashioned varieties and native flowers whenever po ssible, because breeding has caused some modern-day blooms to lose their fragrance, and even those that still have scent may lack the nectar that pollinators need to thrive.

Plant a mix of flowers that cater to both generalist and specialist pollinators, so all can partake of the feast.

Design your garden so that there is a continuous succession of plants in bloom to provide nonstop food sources for hungry pollinators.

Avoid using pesticides, even non chemical ones such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which can decimate pollinator populations.

Gardening For Pollinators allows us to understand and appreciate a part of nature we usually don't notice: the insects. Once you start paying attention, you will find a whole world that is even more complex, fascinating and important than any of us realize.

Every garden needs pollinators and bees are among the best. Without them there would be limited flowers and even fewer fruits and vegetables.

Since bees add more than a soothing buzzing sound, it's worth putting some thought into making your garden inviting for them.

Nectar - nectar is loaded with sugars and it’s a bee’s main source of energy.

Pollen - pollen provides the balanced diet of proteins and fats.

Another factor is that the amount of nectar secreted is dependent of climate conditions such as temperature, humidity and moisture in the soil. Here is some advice from the Xerces Society on w hat to plant to attract more bees to your garden.

To help bees and other pollinator insects—like butterflies—you should provide a range of plants that will offer a succession of flowers, and thus pollen and nectar, through the whole growing season.

Patches of foraging habitat can be created in many different locations, from backyards and school grounds to golf courses and city parks.

Even a small area planted with good flowers will be beneficial for local bees, because each patch will add to the mosaic of habitat available to bees and other pollinators.

Native plants are usually best for native bees, and can be used in both wild areas and gardens.

There are also many garden plants—particularly older, heirloom varieties of perennials and herbs—that are good sources of nectar or pollen.

Together with native plants, these will make a garden attractive to both pollinators and people.

Despite the critically important service they provide, pollinators have been taken for granted and they are in jeopardy. This is important to all of us.

Read on.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we are facing an "impending pollination crisis," in which both wild and managed pollinators are disappearing at alarming rates.

It bears out the research that Gordon Frankie, an entomologist at the University of California, Berkeley, has begun in gardens around that city, where he and his students have surveyed 1,000 different plants, both native and nonnative.

Now this is interesting folks.

“Only 50 were native plants, but of that 50, 80 percent were attractive to pollinators,” Professor Frankie said. “In contrast, only 10 percent of the 950 nonnatives were attractive to pollinators.”

Something to think about my friend.

Don't forget to have several host plants for your butterf lies as well.

Well Ron, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Trials, temptations, disappointments -- all these are helps instead of hindrances, if one uses them rightly. They not only test the fibre of a character, but strengthen it. Every conquered temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.

James Buckham

It is true.

We need to be challenged of we are nothing.

We need to be toughened up.

To have our physical, moral and mental strength tested.

Yet we always have another we can freely call upon in our time of need.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Here is another verse I really like.

So let us keep on coming boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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