Life is Sweet for Monarchs
Insects Receive Nectar as Reward for Pollination
Did you know?
- Adult monarch
butterflies are nectarivores; they feed on sugar-rich nectar of flowers. (Monarch larvae are herbivores; they feed on the leaves of the milkweed plants.)
- Flowers produce nectar to attract pollinators; nectar is a 'reward' for pollination.
- Nectar is very sweet. Research shows bees prefer
nectar with a sugar concentration in the 30-50% range. For comparison,
Coke is only 10% sugar!
- The amount
of nectar in flowers varies greatly — and it changes with the
seasons, and even with the time of day. Many flowers
only produce nectar during certain hours of the day!
- The nectar
of spring flowers is usually much more concentrated than that of fall
flowers. (Biologists think flowers may have evolved this higher sugar
concentration of spring flowers as a strategy to attract pollinators.
With the abundance of flowers in the spring, there is a shortage of
pollinators. Later in the season, flowers can "get away" with
watered-down nectar because pollinators are more abundant.)
a monarch (or other butterfly) carefully while it visits a flower. Can
you observe the butterfly lowering its proboscis into the flower?
you see any pollen on the butterfly? (Pollen usually looks like powder,
and is often colorful.) Based on any pollen you see, do you think the
butterfly is visiting different species of flowers?
the butterfly leaves the flower, go back to investigate. What
is the shape of the flower? What color is it? If it's a dandelion or
similar "weed," pick the flower and dissect it. Using a hand
lens, look carefully at the anatomy of the flower, and sketch what you
see. Can you find where the nectar is stored? The pollen?
- As the
season progresses, keep a record of the different flowers that are available
to monarchs and other pollinating insects. Watch for pollen on the insects'
bodies. How many different pollinators do you think you can identify
in your own backyard between now and the first fall frost?