Whoa, almost missed Pollinator Week 2008; visit the Pollinator Partnership to learn more about pollination, pollinators, and to avoid missing out on next year's festivities.
It's a good time to pay homage to the insects that make seeds and fruits possible, with the sun high in the sky and loads of flowers blooming. The pollinators don't do it on purpose, nor do they have any altruistic sense of feeding the world of humanity as a result of their labors. They just happen to pick up grains of pollen on their bodies as they go from flower to flower and so accomplish what the stationary flowers alone don't do so well: cross fertilization.
Notes on a couple of local pollinators:
I noticed a swarm of small wasps working the limonium latifolium blossoms. Wasps are less efficient pollinators generally because their smooth bodies don't pick up pollen grains like a hairy bee's will. Still, some pollination does occur as the wasps take nectar. I wonder why these wasps don't work the limonium perezii or the statice (l. sinuata), plants of the same genus growing in close proximity. The wasps are small (8 to 10 mm, not counting the antennae) so maybe they are able to dominate the smaller blossoms of l. latifolium over other species of pollinators, making it something of an exclusive territory. As best I can figure, these wasps are in the subfamily Philanthinae, which includes several genera of so-called solitary, ground-nesting wasps. Chances are good that wherever their nests are, they are clustered near to one another (think sand wasps in the playground) forming a kind of community of solitary individuals. Apparently they also forage together as there are at least 20 or so of them on the plant at any one time once the sun is well up.
The leaf cutter bees (Megachile sp) are working the cinnamon basil again this year, and like the wasps + the limonium, they seem to prefer an exclusive relationship with this plant. I rarely see them nectaring anywhere else and I always see them on the basil as soon as the day is quite warm. They are quick little buggers and so here is a now you seem 'em, now you don't sequence.
Earlier in the year I signed up to participate in the Great Sunflower Project this year--a great idea of collecting pollinator data all using the same pollen source: Helianthus annuus, wild annual sunflower. After two tries to grow them, I could not get the damned seeds to germinate. Since I consider myself quite the gardener, I found this disturbing. Anyway, check out their website for other people's data across the country.