A Discreet Pollinator: The Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Spellbound, that’s the word. I can’t stop staring, it’s so perfect.

I watch the butterfly perch on the pink phlox on a beautiful Friday in July. On the phlox that I had planted and nurtured for the past year. I set the stage for her. How does she survive in the harsh world, appearing so fragile? The yellow and black wings look as if a breeze would tear them apart.

I tiptoe closer. She poses, like a model, when I take her photo. I always meet them as they are flying away – never holding still long enough to get the pollen. It’s hard to tell if she is doing anything. I never think of butterflies as pollinators, but after researching I learn: yes, they are.

Unlike bees, who always look like they’re working hard, and in a hurry, butterflies are slow and methodical. Bees are temperamental, they may sting if you get too close! I don’t think a butterfly would poke you in the eye or arm if you bothered it. But the butterfly is not as efficient a pollinator as bees are (see, not disparaging bees).

Swooping from one phlox bud to another, she sucks nectar with her tongue. I never considered the tongue of a butterfly – how tiny would that be? She also carries pollen (on her feet and body) from the male part of the flower (the anther) – and dumps it down the female part (the stigma) where an egg sits, waiting. That egg forms a zygote, which produces a fruit and a seed develops within it.

And that’s where I come in. I take the seed (or seedling) and grow a flower like, let’s say… phlox.

If we both do our jobs properly, another generation of beauty will blossom.



About Organized Bohemian

The Organized Bohemian is me, Dana M. Petric. I am a person who writes, runs, travels, designs websites and... has self-published two books: Growing Iris and Budding Iris (a series). I live in Vancouver, BC with my partner Eric and daughter Cleo.
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