What Are Pollinators

Pollinators are vital to life as we know it. They move pollen between flower structures so flowers can be fertilized to produce fruits and seeds. While some plants are self-pollinated and others are pollinated by the wind, many are pollinated by animals, primarily insects in Illinois. These insects include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and flies. Some insect pollinators, like bees, intentionally collect pollen. Others, like butterflies and moths, move pollen accidentally when it sticks to their bodies while feeding on nectar. 

Click on the buttons below to learn much more about each type of pollinating insect.

Pollinator Preferences

Different flower features can influence what types of pollinators visit them. These features are referred to as pollinator syndromes. By looking at different traits that flowers possess such as flower color, scent, amount of pollen present, flower shape, and presence of nectar guides one can get an idea of what types of pollinators may pollinate that particular plant.

Pollinator Syndromes

Flower Traits

Bees & Wasps

Beetles

Butterflies

Moths

Flower Flies

Filth Flies

Color

White, yellow, blue, ultraviolet

White, green

Bright red, purple

Red, purple, pink, white

White, yellow, ultraviolet

Pale, dark brown, putple

Nectar guides

Present

None

Present

None

Present

None

Odor

Fresh, mild, pleasant

None, strongly fruity, or foul

Faint but fresh

Strong, sweet; most at night

Fresh, mild, pleasant

Putrid

Nectar

Usually present

Sometimes present

Ample; deeply hidden

Ample; deeply hidden

Usually present

Usually absent

Pollen

Limited; often sticky, scented

Ample

Limited

Limited

Limited; often sticky, scented

Modest

Shape

Shallow, with landing platform; tubular

Large, bowl-shaped

Narrow tube with spur; wide landing pad

Regular, tubular without a tip

Shallow, with landing platform

Shallow, funnel-like, or complex with trap

Adapted from USDA-FS https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/What_is_pollination/syndromes.shtml

Garden Tips:

Food Supply and Ecosystem:

Nectar Guides

Nectar guides are markings or patterns on flowers that direct pollinators to nectar. Some nectar guides may be ultraviolet (UV) and aren’t visible to humans. They can be found on many white and yellow flowers such as daisies and asters.

Catalpa nectar guides
Catalpa nectar guides
Spring beauty nectar guides
Spring beauty nectar guides