Scientists Say: Nectar

This is a sugary fluid secreted by plants to attract pollinators


This hummingbird is sticking its long bill inside a flower for a nectar snack.


Nectar (noun, “NECK-ter”)

This is a sugary liquid that plants secrete from structures called nectaries. Usually, these nectaries are found inside flowers. The nectar attracts pollinators such as beetles, bees, birds and bats. The animals get a sweet drink, and the plant gets its pollen stuck to the animal. When the animal moves on to the next flower, the pollen goes with it and can later fertilize a plant egg. That allows the plants to reproduce. The nectar serves as a bribe to keep the pollinators coming back.

Some plants also have nectaries that are not in flowers. These nectaries produce sweet nectar, but not for pollination. Instead, the nectar attracts organisms that are predators. Those predators hang around the nectaries for snacks, and they also attack other animals who might try to eat the plant. It’s still a sugary bribe, but this time it’s a bribe for defense.

In a sentence

Bees prefer nectar that’s been spiked with caffeine, proving that even bees like a good buzz.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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