Who makes the list of top pollinators for our food crops?
1) Wild honeybees
Wild honeybees work ceaselessly to pollinator crops like apples and blueberries.
2) Managed honey bees
Most managed bee hives are European bees that work for the agricultural industry. The majority of these hives are moved across the country in order to pollinate different crops.
These are the powerhouses of the bee family. Unlike their lazier cousins, the honeybee, bumblebees work in rain, sleet and wind. I have seen bumblebees clinging on to flowers whipping around in a gale-force wind and struggling through early snows to bring home the nectar. Their thick coat of hair helps insulate them against the colder weather.
4) Other wild bee species
There are over 4,000 native bee species in the USA. They come in many colors, sizes and kinds. About 70% of native bees nest in the ground. Over 25% of these bees are in danger of extinction.
One of the most common bee families are the sweat bees (Halictidae). Some of these bees are a gorgeous metallic green!
When butterflies sip nectar they also pollinate flowers. Unlike moths, butterflies are very active during the day. Butterflies don't move as much pollen as bees do since they lack any specialized structures for collecting pollen like the hairs on a bee. They especially like flat, clustered flowers such as yarrow that they can land on easily. Other reason that butterflies click 'like' on a flower are: a good source of nectar, blooms open during the day, bright vivid colors and nectar guides.
Nectar guides are regions of low ultraviolet (UV) reflectance near the center of each petal. Since people can't see UV, this region appears invisible to us. Butterflies, however, are like bees in that they can detect UV light. The contrasting UV pattern on many flowers is called a nectar guide. Like the landing strip at an airport, it allows butterflies and bees to quickly locate the flower's center.
Butterflies have excellent sight. They have four to fifteen different types of photoreceptors (most humans only have three!). They can see the same rainbow of colors as humans, plus in ultraviolet, violet and broadband. Broadband photoreceptors perceive multiple colors at once and we have no idea what the world would look like with broadband receptors.
Many moths pollinate night blooming flowers. Some species, like the Sphinx moth (Sphingidae) can be active during the day. Some Sphinx moths, commonly known as Hummingbird moths, hover at flowers and can resemble humming birds in their unusual up, down and sidewise movements.
Some species of wasps are important pollinators. Wasps lack the hair of bees which makes them less efficient at pollination.
The vegetarian wasp family Masarinae (pollen wasps) feed both nectar and pollen to their young.
8) Other insects
Flies, beetles and other insects are pollinators.
Hoverflies, from the family Syrphidae, are super fly pollinators. They are known as flower flies. Many of the roughly 6,000 species known worldwide are bee or wasp mimics. So the bees get create for their hard work. About 40% of hoverfly larvae prey on pest species of insects.
Midges (Ceratopogonidae and Cecidomyiidae families) are the only known pollinators of the cacao tree. The cacao tree, which provides the the world with chocolate, has very small intricate white blossoms that are impossible for other insect pollinators to navigate. Thus without the humble midge we would have no chocolate!
Unlike the blood thirsty female mosquitoes, male mosquitoes peacefully sip nectar. They pollinate some orchids and may pollinate other plants.
A few birds act as pollinators; this is known as ornithophily. Birds that pollinate include hummingbirds, spiderhunters, sunbirds, honeycreepers and honeyeaters. Birds like bright colored blooms with lots of yummy nectar.
Nectar drinking bats, such as the lesser long nosed bat, act as pollinators.