While bees might take the prize for being the best pollinators, butterflies give a helping hand. Today we are celebrating the pollination powers of butterflies with this flower petal butterfly suncatcher craft!
What is Pollination?
Pollination is how plants that have seeds reproduce. Each flower has a male part and a female part. When pollen from the anthers of the male part (called the stamen) is transferred to the stigma on the female part (called the pistil), it is fertilized and will produce seeds. Some plants self-pollinate using their own pollen for fertilization. Other plants cross-pollinate, where pollen from one flower must travel to the female part of another flower of the same species. This can lead to stronger plants because it encourages genetic diversity. The bright, sweet smelling flowers on our plants help attract pollinators to help with this process.
Butterflies as Pollinators
Unlike bees who have pollen baskets on their hind legs, butterflies don’t have special body parts designed to help them collect pollen. They glide from one flower cluster to another in search of its sweet nectar, using their straw like tongue (called a proboscis) to drink. It’s long and narrow to dive deep into each flower. They don’t need to snuggle in close to reach their food. This means less pollen collects on their bodies than our fuzzy, buzzing friends. But they do collect pollen on their long legs as they delicately walk over each flower’s bloom. When the butterfly flits over to another flower, some of the pollen that has collected on their legs and proboscis transfers to the new flower. This gives the next flower the genetic information it needs to reproduce and make seeds.
What is the strength of a butterfly as a pollinator?
The gift butterflies bring to pollination is their ability to travel long distances. Bees stay within a radius of about 3 km from their hives. The flowers within this range that they feast on gives their honey its distinctive flavors. Butterflies don’t have a home base. Instead, they continue flying around the area, or may migrate, feeding and pollinating the flower species as they go. This helps with that process of cross-pollination we learned about earlier. The plant’s offspring is usually much healthier. And sometimes it even leads to a new variety of flower being created!
Butterflies are also attracted to more types of flowers than bees. They see a wider range of colors than other insects with receptors in their eyes for red, green, blue, and ultraviolet light. Bees are missing a color receptor for red. The next time you’re out in the garden, pay attention to the color of flowers both of these pollinators visit. Do you notice any patterns in their choices?
Flower Petal Butterfly Suncatcher Craft
Head outside on a sunny day and observe butterflies. Explore the flowers and find the silky, powdery pollen. Talk about how butterflies pollinate flowers and what makes them strong pollinators compared to bees. Sign up for our newsletter at the end of this post to access your FREE Butterfly Suncatcher Template and many more free nature learning resources from our subscriber community for this activity.
- non-toxic flower petals
- (alternatively, used colored tissue paper)
- clear contact paper
- Subscribe to print and cut out your Butterfly Suncatcher Template
- Collect flower petals while on your walk. Use tissue paper if not available. [Safety note: some flowers are toxic. Please tell your child to check with you first before collecting their nature find and choose species you are familiar with.]
- Cut along the outline of your butterfly and remove the white areas in the wings.
- Place your cut template (black side down) onto the sticky side of clear contact paper.
- Now comes the fun part. Stick on your nature finds and create your own color patterns.
- Seal with a second sheet of clear contact paper.
- Tape onto a sunny window and enjoy.
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