Many wild plants and food crops depend on pollinators to help them reproduce. Though small, pollinators are an important part of our ecosystems.
Pollinators play an important role in ecosystems and agriculture. As insects move from plant to plant they transfer pollen on their bodies, allowing plants to reproduce. Some other animals such as hummingbirds also help to pollinate plants.
Many food crops are either entirely dependent or heavily dependent on insect pollination, including:
Without pollinators, we would not be able to enjoy many of these foods.
The presence of a wide diversity of pollinators is also beneficial for wild plants in the park, as it increases their chances of reproducing. Through a variety of flower shapes, colours and scents, plants are able to attract a wide diversity of pollinators. Flat flowers with landing platforms (e.g. asters) can be pollinated by a variety of insects, while bell-shaped flowers (e.g. columbines and lilies) require pollinators with longer tongues, such as butterflies. Different colours also attract different pollinators. Bees and flies are more attracted to blue and purple flowers, while butterflies are attracted to yellow, red, and orange flowers. Scents are also important to attract insects, particularly at night.
Insect pollinators are a diverse group and include more than just bees – flies, beetles, pollen wasps, butterflies and moths also play a large role in pollinating flowers. A group of flies known as hoverflies (or flower flies) is the second most important group of insect pollinators after bees. Hoverflies often look like bees or wasps, with a striped black and yellow abdomen intended to fool hungry predators into thinking they are dangerous. Great spots to see pollinators in action include open fields with lots of wildflowers, such the Vista Trail meadows, the Bob Hunter area, or the northern end of Mast Trail by the Twyn Rivers parking lot.
Black swallowtail butterflies have black wings with yellow and blue dots for females and yellow dots for males. These butterflies are also identifiable by two orange spots at the base of their wings close to the tail. Black swallowtails have two generations every summer - they emerge in May, lay eggs, and the second brood emerges in July. Black swallowtails can be found in a wide variety of habitats which makes them one of the most common butterflies to spot – keep an eye out for them throughout the park!
Cecropia moths have red bodies with white bands around their belly and brown wings with white crescent eyespots and red, black and white stripes along the tips. With a wingspan of 12-17cm, the cecropia moth is also the largest moth found in North America.
The Monarch is an orange and black butterfly with small white spots. The Monarch’s caterpillar is black, white and yellow striped and can be found feeding on milkweed plants. Once hatched it takes approximately 1-2 weeks for monarch caterpillars to complete their 5-instar larvae stage before making their chrysalis.
Monarchs have different habitats throughout their life cycle. Caterpillars feed on milkweed and so they can be found in meadows and open areas. Adult butterflies feed on many different wildflowers and therefore can be found in many different habitats where flowers are abundant.
The Summer Azure is pale blue with white scales on the wing. Some females are almost entirely white with a touch of blue at the wing base. The underside of the wings are white-grey with small spots. Adult summer azures can be found in woodlands and open fields.