What is nectar?
Stuart Blackman explains why nectar is more than just a sugary delight for insects
Nectar is a plant’s way of bribing insects and other animals to pollinate it or protect it against herbivores. The sugar-rich fluid is indeed packed with energy, but it also contains other much-sought-after compounds.
The caffeine contained in citrus tree nectar boosts honeybees’ memories, for instance, making the insects more likely to visit similar flowers. And earlier this year several nectar components were found to reduce gut parasite load in bumblebees.
Intriguingly, a chemical component of rhododendron nectar is actually toxic to honeybees but not bumblebees, perhaps because it pays for the plants to encourage only certain, specialist pollinators.
Main image © Getty Images
Subscribe to BBC Wildlife Magazine
CHOOSE YOUR BONUS GIFT when you subscribe to BBC Wildlife Magazine today.
Choose from either a Interactive Beehive or, a RSPB Open Nestbox. Plus, save 35% off the subscription price!