Butterflies & Bees: Pollination 101

Andrea Evans
April 4, 2012

Your child (and you for that matter) may not be ready for a talk about the birds and bees, but with the arrival of spring and flowers blooming all around you, butterflies and bees are sure to be on your little one's mind. Overnight, it seems that bees and butterflies are everywhere. Your children are sure to pepper you with questions: How do bees make honey? Why are bees and butterflies attracted to bright flowers? What makes flowers grow? Spring is the ideal time to help your children understand how and why things bloom and grow, and how the pollination process produces all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables that we enjoy all year long.

Here is a fairly simple way to explain pollination to your preschooler:
  • Pollen is a microscopic powder consisting of grains that live on flowers.
  • Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, moths, ants (and even bats) are pollinators, which means that they move the pollen from the anther or stamen of one flower to the stigma of another flower
  • Pollen can't move by itself. That's where the bees and butterflies come in. They do about 80 percent of the work. Wind and water do the rest.
  • Flowering plants and the pollinators form a special partnership in which plants develop characteristics that attract pollinators (bright, beautiful colors or fragrances), and pollinators have adapted to move the pollen efficiently. For example, pollen will stick to bees so that when they fly from flower to flower the pollen moves with them.
  • Plants benefit from the pollinators because the movement of pollen enables them to produce seeds. The pollen goes from the stigma down through the pistil of the flower and into the ovum where it develops into seeds. The seeds then grow and become more flowers, fruits and vegetables.
  • If there are a lot of pollinators in your neighborhood, it means that the health of the local ecosystem is good, so bees, despite their stingers, are good for you.
  • 80% of the food and crops grown around the world require pollination, so we need the bees and butterflies to eat. Pretty amazing!

From the Parents

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