Butterflies Thrive at the OPGC

July 31, 2014

Controlled pollination of our acessions is critical for the production of seeds consistent with the genetic charateristics of the original population.  Bumblebees are our principal pollinators, but unfortunately they do not typically pollinate flowers of Phlox, one of our priority genera.  In the wild, phlox are generally pollinated by members of the Lepidoptera, the moths and butterflies. The reason for this is that phlox flowers have a very narrow corolla tube. As a consequence we have embarked on a project to rear appropriate butterflies to use as pollinators in the contained environments where we keep individual accessions. One group of butterflies we are rearing is the painted lady (Vanessa cardui) because it is relatively easy to rear in the quantities we need to assess their performance as pollinators. The OPGC curator, Susan Stieve, has been quite successful in getting these butterflies going, and experiments are underway to determine how well they'll work as pollinators for the various species of phlox we are growing.