From the humble beetle to the majestic hummingbird, Pollination Celebration praises all pollinators

Tobie Blanchard  |  9/17/2018 4:40:29 PM

(09/17/18) HAMMOND, La. — When it comes to pollination, honeybees, butterflies and hummingbirds get most of the positive press, but more than 200,000 species of insects and animals act as pollinators.

Included in that number are insects many don’t hold in high regard: scarab beetles, flies and mosquitoes.

Mary Helen Ferguson, an LSU AgCenter extension agent in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes, spoke about these unconventional pollinators at the Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners Pollination Celebration at the AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Sept. 15.

“Beetles are there to eat. They are not there to collect nectar,” Ferguson said. “They will eat pollen and fleshy parts on the plant.”

Ferguson said flies and beetles are often attracted to the rotting smell emitted by some plants, such as the pawpaw tree. Mosquitoes pollinate some varieties of orchids because the plants smell similar to body odor.

Ferguson’s presentation was one of several that looked at pollination from many angles.

Keith Hawkins, AgCenter agent in Beauregard Parish, has been keeping bees for eight years. He talked about a year in the life of a beekeeper. Hawkins went month-by-month on tasks necessary to keep a healthy hive.

“I’ve seen an increase in beekeeping in recent years,” Hawkins said. “People are interested in learning more about bees.”

Louisiana has 18 beekeeper clubs across the state.

Jannett Cancella is an active beekeeper in Destrehan, where she has been in the bee business for 20 years. She attended the Pollination Celebration because of her love for bees.

“I have a fascination with bees, what they do, and their importance,” she said. “Without them, humans wouldn’t survive.”

Yan Chen, AgCenter horticulture researcher, talked about plants homeowners can grow that benefit pollinators.

“Early spring is very hard for bees, so having camellias that flower in late winter and early spring are good sources for bees,” she said.

This is the third year the Tangipahoa Master Gardeners held the Pollination Celebration.

Patty Pitzer with the Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners said this event helps fulfill their mission of education.

“Some people have a phobia about bugs and insects, but we want people to be aware that some insects are beneficial, and there is a safe way to apply pesticides that won’t harm pollinators,” Pitzer said.

The event included walking tours of the gardens, honey tasting, craft stations where participants could make hummingbird feeders, and hummingbird banding.

Five-year-old Sarah Hattaway, of Ponchatoula, watched as Linda Beall measured and banded a ruby-throated hummingbird. When Beall was finished taking the bird’s measurements, she placed it in Hattaway’s hand, where to Hattaway’ delight, it rested for nearly 30 seconds. Hattaway blew twice on the bird’s feathers, and it flew away.

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Sarah Hattaway, 5, of Ponchatoula, blows a banded hummingbird from her hand. Hummingbird banding was one of many activities at the Pollination Celebration put on by the Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Sept. 15. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

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Claire Noble-Hodges, 4, of Ponchatoula, plants a petunia to take home at the grow your own plant station at the Pollination Celebration at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Sept. 15. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Mary Helen Ferguson talks about the pollination prowess of beetles and flies during the Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardener Pollination Celebration at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Sept. 15. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

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