Besides honeybees, what other insect contributes most to pollinating strawberry plants?

And the answer: butterflies.    
Photo credit: strawberryplants.org.

Without butterflies, we might not have strawberries. They pollinate during the day, travel great distances, and unlike bees, they can perceive color. Their favorite color, red, is very easy to see when strawberry plants start to open.

While bees are efficient, reliable pollinators that function as well-oiled machine, butterflies are travelers who prefer large blooms, pretty colors and, really, just enjoy taking their time. Butterflies are less abundant, less likely to go out of their way to get pollen, and have long, delicate legs that are less likely to brush up against a flower's pollen-producing anthers. You may be wondering, then: how in the world could a butterfly be an effective pollinator?

Believe it or not, despite lacking the qualities that make bees so good at toting pollen from flower to flower, butterflies make up for it with their own unique advantages. During the daytime, butterflies visit flowers while their blooms are open, using their excellent color perception to choose a plant. Often, butterflies are able to find nectar using their ability to see ultraviolet light—a fact which makes flower markings very distinct.

Additionally, scientists are still uncovering the extent of butterflies’ profound influence on agriculture. Previously, most biologists subscribed to the notion that butterflies’ long legs and large wings made them less agile pollinators, but recent research reveals that those very limitations mean that butterflies tend to gravitate towards different plants than other pollinators. Ultimately, due to the preferences and physical structure of butterflies, roughly 50% more flowers are visited than would be the case if bees were the only pollinators.

Learn more about butterfly pollination here.


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