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Pollination Gardens

This is a collection of various pollination gardens which use a large assortment of native plant species to attract bats, bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds.

Moths

Moths greatly outnumber butterfly pollinators, but most are nocturnal and remain unnoticed. Although a few fly and feed in the day, the majority of moths do their pollinating at night.

While the moth's proboscis or drinking-straw tongue probes the flower for nectar, pollen is picked up on its body and transferred to the other flowers it visits.

Many moths get their energy from nectar, visiting flower after flower in a constant quest for food. However, a few kinds of moths never eat, because as caterpillars they ate enough to last the rest of their short lives! They don't need to visit flowers at all.

Moths tend to be attracted to light-colored, night-blooming flowers with strong, sweet scents. Fragrance often alerts moths that food is nearby.

Bats

Pollination takes place around the clock. The graveyard shift is worked by such animals as nectar-feeding bats. Although we generally think of bats as eating insects or fruit (or even blood!), the flower-feeding bats live on nectar and pollen. They are rarely noticed, but these nocturnal animals are essential to the reproduction of our giant, night-flowering cacti and agaves, as well as tropical papayas, kapok, bananas and many others.

Bat-pollinated flowers tend to be pale-colored and sturdy, containing large amounts of nectar to meet the high-energy needs of bats. They also produce musky "bat perfumes" that mimic the smell of places bats roost, or the fragrance of overripe fruit. Moth-pollinated flowers, on the other hand, tend to smell sweet. Each odor attracts its own type of pollinator.

Two species of nectar-feeding bats are endangered and another is at risk due to loss of the plants they feed on along their migratory routes. The Desert Museum has launched a major effort to protect these "nectar corridors," ensuring that both flowers and bat roosts are available for long-distance migration. Our staff is also active in monitoring "nectar bats" in national parks and wildlife refuges throughout the Southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico.

Hummingbirds

When we opened the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's hummingbird aviary in 1988, we had no idea whether or not any of the eight species of the birds on exhibit would breed and rear young. Since opening day, however, weâve seen Costaâs, Broad-billed, Black-chinned, Annaâs, and Calliope hummingbirds nest, lay eggs, and rear young. There have been a total of 114 nests built, 186 eggs laid, 116 birds hatched, and 102 birds fledged. No other zoological institution can boast of such success.

But this success has not come without a good deal of effort on the part of the exhibit keepers and the hummingbirds - especially when it comes to nest-building. For example, in 1992 we renovated the exhibit, clearing out all the plants and expanding and replanting the new space. Within a month of the renovation, several hummingbirds began to build nests. The nests were loose and quite fragile, and even experienced nesters were having difficulty. Most of the nests fell apart and we lost several eggs that fell out and broke. We scratched our heads for days trying to figure out the problem before we finally concluded that a primary component of hummingbird nests was missing spider webs! Hummingbirds use spider webbing as a way to bind and tie their nests together. The spiders had yet to reestablish themselves in the spanking new exhibit. I immediately went out and collected webs from around the grounds, rolling them up on twigs, which I left in the aviary. The Desert Museum's entomologist and I also collected 25 labyrinth spiders and introduced them. Within days the spiders were weaving their webs in the aviary and the birdsâ nests immediately improved.

 
 © 2003 Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum