3344RE: [beemonitoring] definitive vanilla pollinators?
- May 15, 2014
There are multiple species of Vanilla, so it would depend on which one (and where) one was looking. Vanilla planifolia, the major source of the natural flavoring agent, is hand-pollinated in cultivated situations because no effective pollinators (or no sufficiently effective pollinators) seem to be available, whether the plant is growing in its native land or elsewhere. Ken Cameron, who has worked extensively on the genus Vanilla, probably has some information that he could share about non-human pollinators; he is at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
A colleague asked me about *definitive* pollinators of vanilla - as in
"demonstrated to carry vanilla pollen AND effect fertilization, as
opposed to simply seen visiting flowers or seen carrying pollen". There
are evidently people who CLAIM that it is pollinated by Melipona, but I
can find no published evidence - in addition to vanilla not really
appearing to be the kind of flower that a Melipona would visit.
Moreover, the online sources that claim that a Belgian discovered the
true pollinator in 1836, IDed as Melipona subnitida, is obviously false,
given that vanilla is endemic to Mexico, and M. subnitida is endemic to
Brazil. A local grad student worked for a month observing vanilla plants
in the field, and the only bees he ever saw visit were Eulaema and
Xylocopa. Is anyone here aware of something more concrete, or is the
natural pollinator of vanilla still a mystery?
Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
"There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
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