Avocado Pollinators and the Need for Weeds

Dino Martins studies insect behavior around the world and captures stunning photos of a world often neglected as “small and unimportant.” 

One of my favorite plants (after cacao, which produces chocolate!) is the avocado. They truly are one of the most delicious and nutritious fruits around.

Avocado trees are one of the many different crops that depend on wild insect pollinators. I recently spent some time in the Kerio Valley in northwestern Kenya looking at the insects visiting the avocado flowers.

While crops are only in flower for a short period of time, bees and flies need to eat from a wide range of different wildflowers. Without these plants, the bees, flies and other pollinators would not be able to survive. This would result in far fewer avocados and poor or low yields on the crops that depend on pollinators. Some of the plants that the bees and flies depend on at this site are considered weeds. These weeds, including the infamous “blackjack” (Bidens pilosa) are actually an important resource for wild insect pollinators.

Weeds and wildflowers growing around a farm are essential in order to support healthy wild insect pollinators.

At this small farm near Iten, there were lots of different flowers growing along the edges of the farm, including the lovely, scrambling yellow-flowered creeper in the daisy family (Asteraceae). Several of the avocado pollinators could be found visiting the flowering creeper later in the day after they had been pollinating the avocado flowers.

This is why it is important to have diversity in the farming landscape, like here in Kenya’s beautiful Kerio Valley. More wildflowers and weeds around the farm support more pollinators that produce higher yields.

More from the wonderful world of bugs soon!

Please think of the pollinators when you next enjoy an avocado!

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Meet the Author
My name is Dino J. Martins, I am a Kenyan entomologist and I love insects. The Kiswahili word for insect is dudu and if you didn't know already, insects rule the world! Thanks to the amazing efforts of the 'little things that run the world' I was humbled to be selected as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. This blog is a virtual dudu safari through the fascinating world of bugs. Enjoy, leave a comment and send any questions or comments to me through: insects.eanhs@gmail.com