Living With Insect Pollinators

Legs of insect pollinators have features adapted to gripping the surface of a flower. These adaptations include sticky pads on the end of the leg (tarsal pads) or terminal claws. Unfortunately for the plant (which needs pollination) and the insect pollinator, pollen can stick to the pads and cause an insect to lose its grip. What is a poor insect pollinator to do? Use its claws with a little help from the plant.

Whitney & Federle* review the biomechanics of plant-insect interactions and note that many flowers have special “conical” cells on their petals. These cells provide an excellent surface with plenty of sites where insect claws can fit. Conical cells allow the pollen laden insect to land on the flower without slipping.

Bee hind leg showing pollen basket and tarsal claw
Inset: Conical Cells on flower petal surfaces allow bees and other pollinators to grip with their claw. (Inset Image from Whitney and Federle)

*Whitney HM, Federle W. Biomechanics of plant–insect interactions, Curr Opin Plant Biol (2012),

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

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