As global pollinator populations decline, the pressure is on for scientists to figure out what makes these buzzing insects tick. While bumblebees do not pollinate much of the food we humans eat, their fuzzy bodies move a lot of pollen for native plant species, which makes them an essential part of many an ecosystem. Tracking the nesting and eating habits of bumblebees has given scientists some surprising new clues about how to encourage pollination in an ever-urbanizing world.
Those lush little wads of greenery in your yard have it hard. To reproduce, male mosses must release their sperm into the dew and wait for them to trickle into a female moss, which is a separate plant altogether. Perhaps, if they’re lucky, the sperm might be given a lift by tiny arthropods called springtails, making their way through the moss patch.
Why the springtails get involved in this slow-motion seduction hasn’t been clear. But now researchers have found that just as flowers release scents that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, so too does the humble moss lure in the springtail with its own special secretions.