Pollen is a powdery substance formed by seed-producing plants. Cone-bearing and flowering plants produce seeds. Pollen is produced by the male cone (cone-bearing plants) or by the anthers (flowering plants). Pollen contains a non-reproductive cell or cells as well as a reproductive cell that will become two sperm cells.
Pollination is the process of transferring the plant's male reproductive cells (pollen) to the plant's female reproductive structures (stigma and style) so that sperm and egg can meet resulting in a new plant. The female structures are located in a different place than the male structures.
Pollinators are animals that transfer pollen to fertilize plants. Many insects and some bats are pollinators. Hummingbirds, some monkeys, some rodents and other animals are pollinators, too. Humans can be pollinators as well! Not all plants need pollinators, but about 85 percent of them do. These plants would not be able to produce seeds without pollinators. In Illinois, the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) and some butterflies, moths, bees, flies and beetles are pollinators.
Do the animals purposely pollinate the plants? No. They are interested in feeding upon the sweet nectar produced by the flowers and/or collecting some of the pollen to mix with nectar to feed their young. While doing so, pollen falls on them, getting trapped in their hairs or sticking to the animal. As the pollinator moves within flowers, some of the pollen may drop onto the female flower structures. There will still be plenty of pollen attached to the pollinator for it to use as food. Depending on the type of plant, the pollen may need to be moved within a flower, to a different flower on the same plant or to a flower on a different plant of the same species.