Pollinators are critical components of natural and agricultural landscapes. This course will provide students with broad insights into pollinator biology, evolution, economic importance, and conservation.

ENT 497A BIO (3 credits)

Tuesday, Thursday 9:45 to 11:00
102 Chemistry Bldg
Registration Number 134344

Dr. Heather Hines
Dr. Harland Patch

Description (lecture)

Flowering plants and their animal pollinators serve as key components of both natural ecosystems and agrosystems, and abound with interesting examples of ecology and evolution in action. Knowledge of pollination biology is thus broadly relevant, with applications in the fields of ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation, entomology, and horticulture. This course will provide students with a fundamental understanding of animal-mediated pollination, focusing on (1) plant and pollinator diversity, biology, and natural history, (2) the ecology and evolution of plant-pollinator relationships including pollination syndromes, mutualisms, and evolutionary strategies of generalists and specialists, (3) foraging economics and learning behavior, (4) the important contributions pollinators make to natural ecosystems and agriculture, and (5) the factors that contribute to pollinator declines and possible conservation strategies.

Course Outline

The course will involve a combination of lectures (outlined below) and class activities.

I. Introduction

  • Why study pollination biology?

II. The Plants

  • Plant Reproduction. Reproductive strategies and innovations. Mechanisms of pollen dispersal. Major plant lineages and the origin of the Angiosperms.
  • Floral Evolution. The evolution of the flower and floral diversity. Floral Advertisement: Visual, Odorant.
  • Nectar, Pollen, and other floral rewards.

III. The Pollinators

  • Pollinator Evolution and Diversity Overview. The origin of pollinator lineages relative to the rise of the Angiosperms. Taxonomy and phylogenetics of pollinator lineages. Beetles, Wasps, and generalist insect pollinators
  • Lepidoptera and Flies
  • Bees
  • Non-insect pollinators. Bats, Birds, and other vertebrates.

IV. Plant-Pollinator Co-evolution

  • Evolution of pollination strategies, pollination syndromes, mutualisms and deceptive pollination.
  • Specialists vs. generalists. Case studies in plant-pollinator coevolution.

V. Pollination Ecology

  • Foraging Economics. Maximizing foraging efficiency (e.g., patch size, foraging distance, thermoregulation, sampling strategies)
  • Recruitment and Learning. e.g., traplining, specialization, landscape memory, floral marking, communication
  • Landscape and Community Ecology. Pollinator and plant communities and networks. Importance of nest sites, foraging distances, plant phenology, habitat availability.
  • Pollination in different habitats.

VI. Pollinators in Agriculture

  • Importance of Pollinators in Agriculture: animal pollinated vs. wind pollinated crops, key pollinators, research on agriculturally important pollinators.
  • Commercial pollination services: honeybees, Megachilid bees, bumble bees. Methods of maximizing native pollinators for crop pollination.
  • The Human-Pollinator Connection: pollination and human health

VII. Pollinator Conservation: Cause of Shifts and Declines

  • Contributing factors. Habitat Fragmentation in Agricultural Landscape, Climate Change, Pesticide/Herbicide Use, Pollinator Pathogens
  • Notable Declines: Honey bees
  • Notable Declines: Bumble bees and Native Pollinators