I was thinking about pollinators and trees, the first thing that came into my head was the intimacy. Much like any intimate relationship, the interactions between pollinators and the trees they live in tend to be hidden beneath our heads. These ecological connections are an interesting and important world that requires a lot of focus.
When I speak of pollinators and their plants, most people immediately think of the herbaceous plants and gardens. However, trees are an essential component of the equation too. What are the pollinators up there?
Carpenter bees, seen here harvesting pollen from goldenrod ( Solidago juncea ), nest in trees and dead wood. Photo by Elizabeth Peters.
They are often resting or sleeping under the bark or in the litter of leaves below (don’t throw them away! ) or hidden in plain view, such as sphinx moths whose camouflage developed over thousands of generations. Some consume leaves remaining dry under the leaves, weaving leaves or hanging from the stems in order to pupate. They’re also reproducing in huge amounts. It’s good as a tiny bird such as the chickadee must feed its young as much as 500 caterpillars every each day. Little birds rely on caterpillars to feed their babies over other insects. They’re very fatty, soft-bodied and nutrient-rich.
Oak trees support a wide variety of pollinators, including over 500 species of butterflies and moths. Photo by Blanca Begert.
Many pollinators are experts that have evolved to rely on specific trees as hosts. One striking and beautiful example found in Eastern North America is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. While we frequently find the adult butterfly in perennial flowers, its home is woodlands that are deciduous, and the primary food plants for young butterflies is the wild black cherries and the tulip tree.
The Genus Quercus (oak) hosts an array of pollinators, ranging from butterflies and moths all the way to wasps and flies bats, and beetles. Ecologist and writer Doug Tallamy and his colleagues have demonstrated that oaks host more than 500 species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).
In their larval stage, Papilio glaucus (Eastern tiger swallowtail) caterpillars feed on wild black cherry and tulip tree leaves. Photo by Steven Severinghaus.
As important as trees are for pollinators, so are pollinators crucial for trees. A lot of trees require pollinators from the wild to reproduce. Although honeybees, which are a nonnative agricultural species, garner plenty of media attention, species of natural bees are equally adept at pollinating food plants, like fruit trees. In the woodland, beetles pollinate the flowers, while insects and specialist bees pollinate flowering dogwoods, as well as black cherries. Spicebush is pollinated by single lady beetles and beetles and flower fly.
The early-blooming spicebush ( Lindera benzoin ), a deciduous shrub native to the woodlands of Eastern North America, is pollinated by solitary bees, beetles, and flies. Photo by Blanca Begert.
Trees aren’t just furniture for the outdoors. They are needed by us, and they depend on us. They are an integral element of healthy ecosystems. By promoting trees, we are helping to support the ecosystem that surrounds them. So what can the community do? Plant them, take care of them, and then water them! Climate change is now presenting us with droughts that could have serious effects on wildlife and plants. In areas where we have access the water supply, it is possible to aid.
Check out Brooklyn Botanic Garden as well as visit the New York City Parks Department for opportunities to get involved, and look up Forest for All NYC to find out more about local initiatives to help forests in the city. The community is in dire need of more volunteers to eradicate the spotted lanternflies and out invasive plants, and take take care of street trees. A massive group of residents is needed to assist NYC adopt a sensible urban forest program and meet its target of achieving 30 percent coverage in 2035.
Also, take some time to learn about the trees and the pollinators they attract. Visit their. New York City has plenty of gorgeous options within our botanical gardens, parks, cemeteries, and parks. The process can start by identifying a tree. Under the leaves, beneath the stems and in cracks of the bark is a vast world of intimate dimensions waiting for you to discover it.