37931RE: Wildflower session on JMT
- Feb 6, 2014
I read your comment and had some doubts about whether mosquitos are significant generalist pollinators in the Sierra or elsewhere, because I have always had the impression that bumblebees and a few other nectar/pollen specialists do the bulk of the generalist work, especially in arctic/alpine ecosystems. So I took a quick look into the issue (I am a plant ecologist and ecophysiologist). There seem to be a few cases where mosquitoes are important pollinators for specific plant species, but David Inouye, whose scientific career has been focused on plant-pollinator interactions in the Rocky Mountains, published a very brief opinion letter in Nature in 2010 with the title "Mosquitoes: more likely nectar thieves than pollinators". Here is the summary:
"I suspect that Janet Fang's claim that “thousands of plant species” are pollinated by mosquitoes (Nature 466, 432–434; 2010) is an exaggeration. There are hardly any papers published on mosquitoes as pollinators, and only one plant species in North America — the orchid Platanthera obtusata — has been reported to be pollinated by these insects (J. R. Gorham Am. Midl. Nat. 95, 208–210;1976).
Given the mismatch between mosquito morphology and most flowers, it is likely that they are stealing nectar without acting as pollinators."
The article by Fang that he cites is not an original research article but a science news piece about "A World Without Mosquitoes" with more of a focus on their role as a food supply.
So, if there is a connection between mosquito and wildflower abundance, I suspect it has more to do with the nectar supply for the mosquitoes, and not a co-evolved pollination mutualism. But I have always thought mosquito abundance depends more on the availability of wet breeding sites, which dry out later in the summer. Either way, enjoying the flowers and swatting mosquitos seem to come hand-in-hand.
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