If you think superficial colours and looks are the only things that attract insects to flowers, you are mistaken. There is a lot more going on there.
We have learnt in the previous post how the colour of the flower can be a major attraction for insects. The fine lines on the petals of a flower act as a guiding source for insects to reach the nectar. Then, pollen grains stick to their bodies and travel with them to other flowers, contributing to reproduction. After a while, insects and birds start relating the colour to their food source. They effortlessly get attracted to the colour where they found the nectar earlier.
If the flower is independent of insects and birds as carriers and solely depends on either other natural ways or itself, the colour can be seen as dull and less bright.
The soft fragrance of roses is a favourite smell for many people. It can fill any space with a soothing scent. But we are not the only ones who are attracted to this fragrance.
Apart from the bright colours, insects are also attracted to the fragrance of flowers. This is also a tactic adopted by flowers to get contributions to their reproduction. It works just like how we associate the appetizing smell of food with its deliciousness.
In a study conducted by Shun K Hirota, Kozue Nitta and their team at the Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, it was established that swallowtail butterflies were more easily attracted to scents that were very subtle and not easily detectable by human’s olfactory organs.
The same results were seen with hawkmoths which preferred yellowish coloured flowers and with almost no scent. It was also observed that some flowers bloom only at the night to attract nocturnal pollinators such as noctuid moths and beetles.
While this is fascinating, further experiments are needed to determine the role of generalist pollinators to understand the evolutionary process of flower colour and scent changes in nocturnal flowers.
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