A biologist, Dr. Jeff Riffell, from the University of Washington, studies how odors act as chemical signals, and how these signals influence animal behavior. For example, many plants use smell to coax far away insects into traveling long distances for pollination. Riffell’s team of scientists wanted to find out what a plant smells like if it needs to be pollinated by mosquitoes. It turned out to smell like a “dirty gym sock”.
Mosquitoes are not that great at pollinating plants. Mosquitoes normally approach flowers solely to procure some sweet tasting nectar before they find their next victim. However, there is one plant that has evolved to take advantage of the frequent mosquito visits, and that plant is known as the orchid Platanthera obtusata. In fact, this orchid pollination via mosquito is not so uncommon.
In areas where orchids are common, such as the state of Washington, orchids rely on mosquitoes almost exclusively for pollination. In fact, Riffell’s team recorded each insect that visited a particular orchid plant. Out of the 167 bugs that visited the orchids, 166 of them were mosquitoes. It is nice to know that mosquitoes can do good for the planet instead just being that bug that kills more people than any other bug.
Do you think mosquitoes could pollinate, perhaps without intent, any other plants besides orchids?