April 2021 - 35

Because of the unique shape of flowers on soapweed yucca, yucca moths are the only insects that can pollinate them. (Photo by Kathy Lichtendahl)

Pollination

Insects provide the benefit of pollinating plants.
More than one-third of food crops depend on insect
pollination. Honey bees tend to receive a lot of attention for this role, but the United States Geological
Survey identifies 4,000 species of native bees in the
U.S. that play an important role in pollination. It is
also worth noting many other types of insects act as
pollinators including butterflies, moths, wasps, flies,
beetles and ants. In some cases, the insect and the plant
have formed a partnership that makes them reliant on
the other species.
Around my home in the Big Horn Basin, I have
watched year after year as mule deer feast on the flowers and fresh and tender seed pods of yucca glauca
plants in late spring. In years when the snows are deep,
those same yucca plants serve to feed wintering elk in
February and March. If not for pollination through
the efforts of the specialized yucca moth, these plants
would not exist. In a relationship that developed over
time, the moth and plant have become codependent
in a way that works for both of them, but if one were
to falter, the other would not survive.

Yucca plants and landscapes like this one in the Big Horn Basin supply food for ungulates, but that wouldn't be
possible without pollination from insects. (Photo by Kathy Lichtendahl)

		

Wyoming Wildlife | 35



April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of April 2021

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https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/october-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/september-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/august-2021
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https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/june-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/may-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/april-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/march-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/february-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/January2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/December2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/September2020
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com