Your kids know about the birds and the bees, as pollinators, but what they may not know is that there are over 1,000 species of pollinating animals in Canada. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as there are more than 100,000 different animal species that pollinate the 250,000 types of flowering plants on our planet. Below we’ve narrowed it down to ten that your kids will think are pretty cool.
Ten Critters and Creatures in the Wild That Will Get Your Children Excited About the Concept of Pollinating
Coolest (and some surprising) Pollinators Found in Canada
Hummingbirds are not only fascinating to watch, they are amazing pollinators. Despite their size they drink up to two times their body weight each day. As they move from plant to plant, they carry pollen and transfer the magical grains to native wildflowers in gardens and green-spaces of your community. There are five species of hummingbird found in Canada from British Columbia all the way to Nova Scotia.
There are 17,500 species of butterflies in the world (over 300 in Canada) but when you’re kids are asked to picture one in their head you already know what it is – a majestic Monarch Butterfly. They are beautiful to look at and are impressive pollinators, but they also deserve inclusion on this list for one unfortunate reason. To date, Monarch Butterflies in Canada are slated for listing as “endangered” under the Species At Risk Act. By having your children learn about the importance of this pollinator we leave their future in the capable hands of the next generation.
Forget Batman and Batwoman, as there is another reason for children to idolize this mammal of the Chiroptera order. Over 500 plant species depend upon bats to pollinate their flowers. While they most commonly serve this purpose in tropical and desert climates, they are essential to the survival of flowering plants in key communities in Canada, including Peachland BC (orchard country!) where your family can visit the Bat Education & Ecological Protection Society during a summer road trip.
There is certainly no shortage of this furry little fella in Canada, especially in the Lower Mainland of BC where they are about as common in communities as family pets. While most people will be surprised to find them on this list, squirrels are known to visit a minimum of 85 plant species in North America, spreading love to their flowers along the way.
This one catches many by surprise, and while uncommon in the grand scheme, opossums are indeed designated as nonflying mammalian pollinators. Are they in your neck of the woods? The Virginia opossum is Canada’s only marsupial but is found in Southern and Southeastern Ontario in addition to Southern Quebec and the lower Fraser Valley of BC. Very cool.
What!? It’s true. When it comes to insects, nearly all pollinators are of the endopterygote (butterflies and moths) and the hymenoptera (wasps, bees) order. But one of the latter is also the scorpion, and it’s closer to your household than you may think. The Northern Scorpion is Canada’s only species of scorpion, but it’s native in the most agriculturally rich regions of the country including the Okanagan, southern Alberta, and southern Saskatchewan. It may play a very small role in pollinating, but it will create big interest in the concept with your curious kids.
Coolest Pollinators to Discover on Family Vacation (or at the zoo)
Lizards are important pollinators, in some cases they supplement or outright replacing birds and insects in many island systems. One of the coolest (and cutest!) that your kids will love to track down and document (with a photo) can be found on your vacation to Hawaii or Mexico – the gecko.
Your family may not have a trip planned to one of the exotic homes to this awesome pollinator but you can still find it at zoos across the continent. Lemurs are actually the main pollinators of important trees in places such as Madagascar. They use their dexterous hands to pull open a tree’s flowers and poke their long snouts and tongues deep inside for a taste before moving on to other types of flora.
If this were a list of the top ten cutest pollinators this tree-dwelling marsupial would take the top spot. They do their good work on plant species native to Australia, including Banksia, Bottlebrushes, Heaths and the Kangaroo Paw Plant among many more. And because they have the ability to leap the width of a football field in a single bound they are highly effective in their pollinating duties.
Can carnivores be pollinators? In Africa, researchers found that spotted genets (which resemble household cats) dine on sugarbush and as a result contribute to the pollination of the very same plants they enjoy as a herbivorous treat.
Below is a list of some popular zoos in Canada. Be sure to reference their websites for updated hours, virtual options, and visitors protocols prior to visiting:
- Toronto Zoo, Toronto, ON https://www.torontozoo.com/zootoyou
- Greater Vancouver Zoo, Aldergrove, BC https://gvzoo.com/news/gvzoo-reopening-information
- Granby Zoo, Estrie, QC https://zoodegranby.com/en/the-zoo/winter
Wasn’t that a fun look at some of the fascinating pollinators found across Canada and the world? Below are some other articles (click each to view) from our Foundation that you family can use for outdoor learning.