Pollinators are creatures that help plants reproduce by spreading a powdery material called pollen among flowers of the same species when the sticky pollen attaches to their bodies—many pollinators have evolved to be extra “hairy” so even more pollen will stick to them. Animals like bees, butterflies, moths, birds, and bats pollinate a majority of fruits and vegetables (i.e. non-grain crops) used in agriculture. But pollinators don’t just help plants; they rely on plants to survive and reproduce, sourcing critical nutrients from energy-rich nectar and protein-rich pollen.
Meet the Pollinators
There are many different types of pollinators in Massachusetts—bees are best-known for their pollinating prowess, but other insects such as wasps, butterflies, moths, and some flies and beetles, as well as birds like hummingbirds, are important pollinators, too. Nectar-feeding bats also pollinate plants, but are not typically found in Massachusetts—our native bats are mostly insectivores.
Read more about pollinators and what you can do to help them on our website and enjoy these five photos of pollinators that you might spot hovering around the flowers in your neighborhood this summer.
“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily…is wasteful and ridiculous excess.”
William Shakespeare, King John Act 4, Scene 2
The quote above seems fitting for this week’s featured creature: the lovely Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui). As if the vibrant flowers they grace in search of nectar were not gorgeous enough, Painted Ladies seem to adorn them even further with a near-excessive beauty.
Found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica, Painted Ladies were once known as Cosmopolitan butterflies for their wide distribution, the widest of any butterfly in the world. What’s more, they are extremely adaptable and can be found in a variety of settings from the suburbs to the mountains and everywhere in between. More than 100 host plants have been identified for them, but they love thistle in particular.
You may have spotted iconic Monarch butterflies passing through Massachusetts on their way south, but they’re not the only orange migrating butterfly: Painted Ladies are also heading southward, following the seasonal availability of food sources. They breed year-round, and many successive generations are spawned along their migratory routes, but they don’t overwinter in cold climates—adults must migrate to warmer, more agreeable breeding conditions through the winter or will perish when freezing temperatures set it.
Here are five photos of beautiful Painted Ladies form our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest. Only two more weeks to enter the 2020 photo contest, so submit your beautiful nature photography today!