Butterflies likely are the best-loved bugs, but bees, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, and other insects pollinate our plants, as do bats, hummingbirds, and tropical birds. June 20 to June 26, 2016 is pollinator week.
Butterflies tend to prefer to nectar on flowers with narrow tubular flowers that are faintly fragrant and brightly colored flowers (especially red & purple). The pollen supply often is limited, and the nectar is ample and deeply hidden.
Pictured above is a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) in the yard of Tanya & Jim Goldsmith on the May yard walk of the Eugenia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. Its dense, round flower heads are composed of tiny 4-petaled tubular flowers with long prominent pistils that extend past the flowers.
Monarch butterfly populations have declined more than 90% over the past 20 years. They are the poster-children for the perils that impact pollinator populations: Habitat loss, pesticide pressures, the elimination of nectar and larval plants from the margins of agricultural lands due to the increased use of Roundup on genetically modified crops, and invasive plants/insects/diseases.
Dr. Jaret Daniels from the University of Florida Entomology and Nematology Department believes that in Florida the weedy, exotic scarlet milkweed (Asclepias cursassavica) can prevent migration and recommends planting native milkweeds. Click here to find out where butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) is available.
What you plant matters to pollinators!