Butterflies are beautiful insects that fly around your yard. You’ll see them landing on flowers and are probably wondering ‘are butterflies pollinators?’
Butterflies are pollinators. However, they do not have specialized body parts for collecting pollen. A butterfly will collect flower pollen on its legs. They will then transfer it between flowers, which help pollination. As butterflies have long thin legs, they are less efficient at picking up as much pollen as bees.
It may surprise you to know that butterflies are somewhat of an accidental pollinator. And you probably have more questions such as how do they pollinate and are they useful for your yard?
This guide will take you through all those questions and let you know everything you need to about butterfly pollination.
Sound good? Then let’s get started.
Are Butterflies Pollinators?
Butterflies are winged insects you see all around the world. They land on flowers looking to eat the nectar inside.
Some flowers need insects, like butterflies, to cross-pollinate. That means they need butterflies to carry pollen from that flower to another.
butterflies come into contact with lots of different flowers. That means they can easily move pollen between them. This is the process of cross-pollination.
Butterflies will pollinate entomophilic flowers. These are flowers that rely on insects to carry out pollination. These flowers are colorful, fragrant and produce sweet nectar to attract insects.
Let’s look at how butterflies pollinate flowers.
How do Butterflies pollinate?
Butterflies pollinate through their legs and mouthparts. When they land on a flower the small pollen parts stick to their legs.
Then when the butterfly lands on a new flower the pollen on their leg is transfers. This starts the pollination process for the flowers.
These flowers purposely produce sweet nectar which attracts the butterflies searching for food. Some flowers even produce a scent that mimics other butterflies to attract them. Once the butterfly arrives, it likes to search around for the nectar in the flower head.
Butterfly’s like to feed during the day when the flowers opened up in the full sunlight. This allows them to get as much food as possible. For the flower that means the butterfly can collect and transfer as much pollen as possible.
It’s really a win-win situation for both the flower and the butterfly.
Are Butterflies good pollinators?
Butterflies are not as effective as bees at pollinating flowers. That doesn’t mean they are not good pollinators. They simply work in different ways.
A bee is hairy with short legs and can pick up a lot of pollen from the flower. Butterflies are opposite with their long thin legs which collect only a small amount of pollen.
The problem with bees is that they don’t fly too far from their hive. That means that they will only pollinate flowers in a smaller area.
Butterflies will travel longer distances to find food. This means butterflies can pollinate flowers in a much larger area than bees can.
Another great thing about butterflies is that have the best color range of all insects. Not only can they see in red, green, and blue, but also in ultraviolet light.
Bees do have a good color range, but butterflies are even better. This means that butterflies are attracted to a much larger variety of flowers than bees are.
Bees can’t see the color red. That means that butterflies are much better at pollinating red flowers. Any shade of red flower in your yard will be pollinated by butterflies (or maybe even hummingbirds).
Why are butterflies beneficial to flowers?
Butterflies are one of the many insects that help plants with cross-pollination. This type of pollination helps flowers by:
- Preventing disease
- Create healthier plants
- Creating new species of plants
- Producing good quality seeds
The process of pollination is so important for your yard ecosystem. These pollinated plants thrive and provide food and shelter for other insects, animals, and birds.
What do butterflies pollinate?
Butterflies will help to pollinate a variety of plants and flowers in your yard. Let’s take a look.
Butterflies are often seen sitting on flowers. That’s because they are happily searching for nectar to feed on.
Flowers with large, colorful petals and small flowers in a large cluster are butterflies’ favorites. That’s because the butterflies can use this as a platform to feed on. And as they search around the pollen gets stuck to their legs and mouthparts.
Butterflies like flowers with large clusters. That’s so they can move from flower to flower and collect as much nectar as possible.
There are so many species of butterflies that are attracted to a variety of flowers. You’ll find most flowers attract butterflies. However, these ones are particular favorites:
- Butterfly bush
- Black-eyed Susan
Want to attract butterflies but you’re not great at gardening? Don’t worry.
Planting a wildflower patch in your yard is always sure to be a hit with both the butterflies and bees. Just sow a wildflower mix (like these) and you’ll be good to go.
Butterflies can help to pollinate vegetables too. The butterflies don’t help to grow the vegetables themselves. But, pollination helps the plants to produce more seeds.
Butterflies love pollinating vegetables that have blossoms growing around them.
These blossoms are sweet and edible, and the butterflies love to visit them just as much as other flowers. If you have these in your yard you’ll be sure to have lots of butterfly visitors to your yard.
These are some vegetables that butterflies like to pollinate
Growing herbs is very easy for novice gardeners. Plus it’s a great way to get started attracting butterflies to your yard. Herbs provide nectar for butterflies, but also a place for them to lay their eggs.
Many herbs will grow big and tall with lots of large flat flower heads that the butterflies live to eat from.
You’ll find that growing a few herbs will attract lots of swallowtail and monarch butterflies to your yard. These are the most popular butterflies to watch.
To attract butterflies to your yard using herbs then plant:
You’ll find that bees are the main fruit pollinator, however, butterflies do their part too. Butterflies will be attracted to any fruiting plant that has nectar-producing blossoms.
The process is the same as the vegetables. The pollen helps to create seeds that keep the plants healthy and thriving.
You may not find butterflies on fruit blossoms as much as other plants. That’s because fruit blossoms only produce nectar for a very short period in the spring.
Fruit plants and trees with a blossom that attract butterflies are:
How to help Butterflies Pollinate
Butterflies are vital to helping plants and crops thrive. The work that insect pollinators do would cost billions for humans do to every year.
That means we get a lot of benefit from helping the pollinations do their job. Butterflies don’t live long and sadly many species have declined by half in the last 50 years. That means helping them as much as possible goes a long way to helping your local ecosystem.
Here are 5 simple ways you can help butterflies to pollinate in your area.
1. Plant more flowers
Planting flowers give butterflies a great nectar source to feed on. You’ll encourage butterflies to lay their eggs and increase their populations. Planting butterfly-friendly plants near fruits and vegetable crops will help you get the best harvest.
Even if you don’t grow food, the butterflies help provide a food source for other birds and animals that visit your yard.
2. Let it grow
Leaving a patch of your yard growing wild and free is a fantastic way to encourage butterflies. This can be a specific area that you don’t cut down or prune throughout the year. In fact, it’s the ideal place to plant wildflowers and watch the butterflies and bees enjoying them.
3. Don’t use pesticide
Pesticide is terrible to use in your yard. Not only does it harm the insects that visit your yard, but it can be harmful to the birds and even your own pets.
When you cut out the use of pesticides, you’ll find that you can naturally attract more birds that will gladly eat up the pest insects.
If you are finding you have a major pest infestation, look into what natural alternatives you can use. You may find that you can get rid of pest insects without poisoning a whole lot of helpful species in your yard.
4. Put the Lawnmower Away
Letting your grass grow a little bit longer is really beneficial to your yard. You’ll give the pollinators time to go about collecting nectar. Plus you’ll keep away pest insects such as June bugs digging in your yard and killing your plants.
5. Offer food and puddles
You can attract butterflies to your yard by offering pieces of fruit for them to snack on. Overripe fruit is a great way to get butterflies to explore your yard and flowers.
Having muddy puddles available to butterflies is another great way to attract them. That’s because butterflies get a lot of water, salts, and minerals from drinking muddy puddles.
You may have seen butterfly houses (like this one) and wondered if they work. Evidence shows they don’t really work. You can always try them out, but don’t be surprised if another insect moves in instead of the butterflies.
Are Monarch butterflies pollinators?
Monarch butterflies are pollinators like all other butterflies. They like to feed on the nectar of wildflowers. Milkweed is a favorite flower of the monarch butterfly.
Feeding and laying eggs on these flowers allows the pollen to attach to the monarch butterfly’s legs. This is then transferred to other flowers as the monarch butterflies fly around in search of more nectar.
Now you know that butterflies are pollinators. They’ll help the process of cross-pollination of flowers, vegetables, herbs, and fruits. They are vital to helping these plants survive. Without butterflies, we’d have to spend a lot of money doing the job that they do for free.
The best way to help butterflies is to provide them with a variety of flowers. Also, don’t over-maintain your garden and cut out the use of any harsh chemical pesticides.
Follow these steps and you’ll be helping out your local butterfly population.