Orthoptera are well known for preferentially eating plants rather than pollinate them. Indeed, even when they are off to a flower, they’re eventually chewing bits at best, or uncaringly eat the whole plant. Hoppers chills are thus really signs of scare to most plants.
Except one of course. Not that it produces noxious chemicals, but that it uses an orthopteran species as a pollinator. Yep, I’m not talking bees, flies, butterflies. Nor bugs, which are also not classically recognized as potential pollinators. Orthoptera this times.
Of course, one would expect such a species to be sort of a special family. Bingo, orchids! You bet… So very recently, a undescribed cricket species, was confounded as a pollinator of a very rare (and endangered of course) orchid: Angraecum cadetii (from Mascarene Archipelago). The Genus produces species with pale or white flowers, so you would typically expect pollinators to be nocturnal. Which is correct for this species. Not only are they drinking nectar and leaving the flower going with a set of pollinia, but they are also not bad pollinating once they carry the gametes load. This time pollen really hop to one plant to the other.
This is the first time an orthoptera is shown to actively pollinate a plant, which is neat. But there’s more in the study*. What I find of special interest is that these yet-to-be-named cricket is that they actively forage for fresh flowers (that is, the quite recently open, filled with nectar and thus sweety scenting), usually the latest open on an inflorescence, which also means that they tend to look for flowers of another (neighbouring) plant, and therefore probably limit self fertilization in the orchid. And that’s pretty cool for the host plant, even if these consequences need further consideration (well, proof yet needed, I hope this is what the authors are going to tell us next!).
* C. Micheneau, J. Fournel, B. H. Warren, S. Hugel, A. Gauvin-Bialecki, T. Pailler, D. Strasberg, and M. W. Chase (2010).
Orthoptera, a new order of pollinator. AOBPreview published on January 11, 2010. (i.e. to appear soon in Annals of Botany).