Katie’s Sightings

By Katie O’Hara Kelly

Blossoms, Bugs, and Birds!

Taken with permission from northyubanaturalist.blogspot.com

Scarlet Fritillary – Fritillaria recurva

With the temperatures warming up and the days getting longer, birds are arriving, widlflowers are blooming, and bugs are buzzing! There’s so much going on! The wildflowers are attracting a variety of pollinators. Are they attracted to the color, the scent, or the flavor of the flower nectar? The answer isn’t that simple! Read on to discover how the pollination process works!

Some flowers are scented while others have dazzling patterns and colors. The extraordinarily beautiful Scarlet Fritillary doesn’t have a fragrance but its eye-popping checkerboard pattern attracts many pollinators. What we see isn’t necessarily what an insect or bird sees when it looks at a flower. In fact most insects, except for butterflies, can’t see the color red, but birds can! For instance, while I was photographing the Scarlet Fritillary pictured above, a hummer briefly fed on a blossom!

Insects smell with their antennae, or feet, or other body parts! However, birds don’t have noses and, except for vultures, some seabirds, parrots, and kiwis, they don’t have a sense of smell.

Both insects and birds have a sense of taste. They can taste salty, sweet, bitter, and sour flavors, but researchers claim many of these creatures prefer sweet tasting food.

Butterflies are attracted to color, flavor, and fragrance!

Applegate’s Paintbrush – Anise Swallowtail on Scarlet Fritillary – Mountain Jewelflower 
Castelleja applegatei – Papilio zelican on Fritillaria recurva – Streptanthus toruosus

A butterfly’s antennae, palps, legs and many other parts of the body are studded with sense receptors that are used to smell. The sense of smell is used for finding food (usually flower nectar), and for finding mates (the female smelling the male’s pheromones).

A butterfly’s feet have sense organs that can taste the sugar in nectar, letting the butterfly know if something is good to eat or not. Some females also taste host plants (using organs on their legs) in order to find appropriate places to lay their eggs. These receptors (called chemoreceptors) are nerve cells on the body’s surface which react to certain chemicals.

“It is believed butterflies sense colors better than any other species. Scientists have studied butterflies and their vision for long enough to determine that not only can butterflies see color, but that they can experience it way better than we can.

Humans, like most species, have three types of photoreceptors. Each one for a different primary color: Red, green and blue. Butterflies can have up to fifteen different types of photoreceptors. And each one might fire up for a color we know (for example, three of them might work to perceive the color green and other two for blue) and others might be there for colors we’ll never get to see. This means a butterfly not only sees color, but they perceive more colors than we do and they do it better than us. Scientists believe their sight evolved this way as butterflies are extremely dependent on their vision for almost everything: from feeding to sex to survival. How well they can perceive their environment is crucial for a butterfly’s existence.

Not all butterflies see color in the same way. Their vision range varies almost as much as how many butterfly species there are. Even though they might all look familiar to us, there are over 17,000 butterfly species in the world right now. And they each experience the world differently!”

Source: https://schoolofbugs.com/can-butterflies-see-color/

Editor’s Note: As often happens, Katie’s blog contains far more material than we have to space for reproducing. Therefore, we highly recommend you visit the northyubanaturalist.blogspot.com to see her beautiful, informative work.

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