Fooling the Flower Visitors

Nice Flowers Give Butterflies Nectar Rewards

Flowers can increase their pollination efficiency by attracting insects that carry their pollen to a nearby flower of the same species. Most flowers act in “good faith”. They reward the insect pollinators with nutrient-containing nectar. One South African orchid, Disa ferruginea, has a single butterfly pollinator, Meneris tulbaghia, but does not reward it for its effort. Instead it mimics another flower, Tritoniopsis triticea, which rewards its pollinators with nectar.  S.D. Johnson* noted that Disa ferruginea, has high levels of pollination and fruit production in locations where Tritoniopsis triticea, grows nearby. In locations where Tritoniopsis triticea, is not present, the orchid bears much less fruit. Disa ferruginea can get by “on the cheap by mimicry. Butterflies used to getting rewards from flowers will inadvertently visit these mimics. However, that strategy also limits the range of the orchid mimic to that of its flower model. In areas where Disa ferruginea, grows without its model flower present, butterflies rarely visit to pollinate them because the butterflies are not rewarded for their effort. Incentives matter.

*S.D. Johnson. 1994. Evidence for Batesian mimicry in a butterfly-pollinated orchid. The Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 53: 91–104
DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.1994.tb01003

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fooling the Flower Visitors

  1. Pingback: Fooling the Flower Visitors – Entomo Planet

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