Are Butterflies Pollinators?

Richie Alston
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You might not be a fan of caterpillars who eat all your precious plants and flowers, but without the annoying caterpillars, there wouldn’t be any beautiful butterflies around your yard. But why would you want butterflies? Are butterflies pollinators?

Butterflies are pollinators and transfer pollen from one flower to another. They get attracted to vibrant flowers and feed on nectar, indirectly collecting pollen and transferring it from flower to flower.  

Butterflies help pollinate various flowers, but they lack specialized body parts specifically made for collecting pollen – like bees.

Butterflies utilize their legs to collect pollen. They will collect pollen from one flower and transfer it to different flowers, helping pollinate. Butterflies are a little less efficient than their pollinating competitors, bees, because butterflies have long, slender legs.

Many types of flowers depend on butterflies for pollination. Entomophilic flowers are flowers that can only be pollinated when an insect cross-pollinates with them by carrying pollen from them and transferring it to another flower.

These flowers are vibrant, fragrant, and colourful and produce nectar to attract various pollinating insects, including butterflies. 

What Flowers Do Butterflies Pollinate?

Butterflies aren’t picky pollinators like bees, as nectar from one flower tastes almost the same as nectar from another flower.

The shape of the flower is what butterflies look for before pollinating, as certain flowers are difficult to land on to pollinate for butterflies while others are easier. Flowers that are big, open and form a good landing pad are easier to pollinate for butterflies. 

Butterfly on a Pink Flower Head

Butterflies have compound eyes through which they see very differently from us. Their vision is blurry, but they can detect colour more clearly. They can see a wider range of colours, and specific colours attract them more; colours such as purple, red, white, pink, orange, and yellow.

The flowers that butterflies like to pollinate include:

  • Allium
  • Alyssum
  • Aster
  • Bee Balm
  • Butterfly Bush (or Buddleia)
  • Buttonbush
  • Calendula
  • Catmint
  • Cornflower
  • Cosmos
  • Daylily
  • Delphinium
  • Dianthus
  • Fennel
  • Globe Thistle
Butterfly on Thistle
  • Goldenrod,
  • Grey Dogwood
  • Hollyhock
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Lupine
  • Mallow
  • Marigold
  • Milkweed
  • Mint
  • Nasturtium
  • Oregano
  • Pansy
  • Phlox
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Scabiosa
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Snapdragon
  • Tickseed
  • Verbena Bonariensis
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnia

Our 14 Fun Facts About Butterflies

What Flowers Do Butterflies Like?

You often see butterflies on many flowers, and that’s because they love feeding on nectar. Nectar is the only thing butterflies feed on because their tube-like mouthparts cannot eat anything other than nectar. 

Flowers with large, vibrant, colourful petals that have a big open landing pad and large clustered flowers are favourite pollinating flowers of butterflies.

These flowers are suitable platforms for the butterfly to feed on, and when they search the flowers, the pollen gets stuck to their mouthparts and legs. 

Clustered flowers are favoured by butterflies a lot as they can move around the flowers while collecting as much pollen as possible.

What Flowers Do Butterflies NOT Like?

Butterflies are not particularly fussy when it comes to flowers. Their least favourite colours are blue and green. So, if a flower is in a shade of green or blue and has hard-to-reach nectar, then a butterfly will dislike it.

Are Butterflies or Bees Better Pollinators?

When it comes to pollination, butterflies aren’t as effective as bees. This doesn’t mean that butterflies aren’t good pollinators, but bees are better at pollinating.

Butterflies may not be as good as bees in pollination, but they work differently. 

Both bees and butterflies can have drawbacks and advantages with their ways of pollinating.

For example, there’s a drawback with bees as they won’t fly too far away from their hives when they want to pollinate. This means that bees will only pollinate flowers in a small area and will only pollinate nearby flowers.

However, bees have short hairy legs and can carry more pollen. Butterflies have thin twiggy legs, so they cannot carry a lot.

As butterflies don’t have a nest or a hive, they don’t have any worries, so they will travel greater distances to find nectar and pollinate flowers in a larger area than bees.

Butterflies not only cover a greater area this way, but they also pollinate a greater variety of flowers. 

Another advantage butterflies have over other pollinators in the wild is that they have a much greater colour range than all other insects.

They not only can see red, blue, and green, but they can also see ultraviolet light. With this useful trait, butterflies can see various flowers from afar and pollinate a much greater variety than bees. 

Bees have a decent colour range, but a butterfly’s colour range is far superior to a bee’s.

Bees are unable to see the colour red. This means that butterflies are better at pollinating red flowers and red flowers mainly depend hugely on butterflies for their pollination.

Are Moths Pollinators?

Yes, moths are pollinators too! You might only consider bees, hoverflies and butterflies pollinators, but moths are also prolific pollinators. They basically take over the night shift when it comes to pollination.Moth Pollinating a Flower at Night

Summary

The precious flowers in your garden depend on many insects for pollination. One insect is a butterfly. Butterflies are beautiful, and each species has a vibrant colour and appearance.

You may not like caterpillars as they can be annoying pests and hurt vegetation, crops and most importantly, your garden, but butterflies benefit a healthy environment.

Butterflies are good pollinators, and a variety of plants depend on them for pollination, with verbena bonariensis, phlox, butterfly bush, lantana and coneflowers being some of their favourites.

Butterflies are effective pollinators, but bees are better due to their ability to carry far more pollen with most of their body being designed for this task. 


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