What Flowers Are Pollinated by Insects?

Written by tonya yirka
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What Flowers Are Pollinated by Insects?
A bee doing its job. (Bee image by Tamas Majer from Fotolia.com)

Today, over 65 per cent of Angiosperms (flowers) are pollinated by insects. (See Reference 1) With this overwhelming fact in mind, only a fraction of the total number of flowers that are pollinated by insects is presented here. Such factors as colour (bees can not see red), smell (butterflies have a weak sense of smell) and time of day in which blooms open (some flowers only open up at night) determine the kind of insect that pollinates them.

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Flowers Pollinated by Bees

Honeybees pollinate many wildflowers such as sunflowers, poppies, Queen Anne's lace and asters. Who has not seen a bee buzzing around in sweet clover? The climbing clematis also attracts these little creatures. Almond orchard owners use over 1 million hives-worth of bees each spring to pollinate the flowering almond trees.

Although bumblebees also pollinate wildflowers such as bachelor buttons, bluebells, milkweed, thistles, nettles and violets, they also populate garden varieties such as cosmos, zinnias, petunias, heliotrope, verbena, chrysanthemums and roses. Interestingly, snapdragons only allow bumblebees to pollinate them by allowing only bees of a correct weight and size to open their delicate flowers.

The bright metallic-coloured orchid bee co-evolved with the orchid, and only its long proboscis (nectar sucking tube) can probe into the orchid blossom's deep recessed nectar storage sac. This may be why some orchids, like the bee orchid, evolved to resemble a queen bee sitting on the orchid, thus increasing its chances of being pollinated by a male bee looking to mate.

The Brazilian orchid entices the sweat bee as do rhododendrons and goldenrod. (The California bog sage houses carpenter bees, honeybees and Bumblebees, but only sweat bees pollinate it.)

The largest bee native to America, the carpenter bee, visits penstemons (member of the snapdragon family), the flowers of the aromatic sumac and salvias. They also pollinate night blooming cereus.

Because small pollen bees fly faster than other bees, they pollinate large fields of red clover, sunflowers, buttercups, and dandelions quickly. They have no greenhouse disorientation, so many flower growers use them inside to pollinate impatiens, nasturtiums, chrysanthemums, daisies and fuchsia. They also frequent hollyhocks, asters and forget-me-nots.

The orchard mason bee specifically pollinates flowers of fruit trees, especially apple; while the blueberry bee can only pollinate flowers on blueberry bushes.

Flowers Pollinated by Moths

Most moths come out at night or late in the day, so they pollinate during the evening and night hours when certain flowers open such as four-o-clocks, the night blooming jasmine, yucca and honeysuckle. Day moths pollinate blossoms having strong sweet scents such as the May apple, dense blazing star and Atlantic camas. One type of evening primrose in California is dying out, because of the decline of the hawkmoth, due to the use of pesticides

Flowers Pollinated by Butterflies

Since butterflies have good eyesight, but a poor sense of smell, they pollinate odourless flowers like compositae and milkweed. They prefer wide landing platforms, flat-topped flowers which usually come in clusters such as Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, spiraea and butterfly weed. The orange barred sulphur butterfly favours the vibrant firecracker plant. Since lavender is one of the butterfly's favourite colours, they often visit the blazing star.

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