Old World swallowtail butterflies
© Alberto Ghizzi Panizza/Getty Image
We spread our wings and fly into Pollinator Week with these exquisite Old World swallowtail butterflies who are enjoying a sip of nectar. The gorgeous swallowtail is welcome in any garden, both for its beauty and its ability to pass pollen from flower to flower. There are more than 550 swallowtail butterflies, and their name comes from the forked appearance of their hindwings, which can be seen when the butterfly is resting with its wings spread.
About three-quarters of all flowering plant species need the help of animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilisation. While most are aware that bees and butterflies are prolific pollinators, they’re not the only creatures to serve this vital function. Other insect pollinators include wasps, ants, flies, moths and flower beetles. Vertebrates can pollinate certain plants, too: mainly bats and birds, but also some non-bat mammals (monkeys, lemurs, possums, rodents) and some lizards. Long-beaked birds such as hummingbirds, honeyeaters and sunbirds pollinate deep-throated flowers.
Pollinating animals are our unsung heroes, travelling from plant to plant carrying pollen on their bodies in an interaction that allows the transfer of genetic material very important to the reproductive system of most flowering plants. These plants provide us with food and innumerable resources. Without these hard workers, humans would soon be an endangered species.