Butterflies are pollinating insects. Although they pollinate flowers, they are not as effective as some insects, and are therefore not considered to be major pollinators. The main reason for this is that butterflies have limited contact with pollen and therefore do not transfer large amounts of pollen from flower to flower. The body of the butterfly does not come close to the flower’s pollen like the body of a bee does. Butterflies have long, thin legs and use them to perch on the sides of flowers and simply probe for nectar with their long probosces (tongues).1
They cannot get as close, or go inside flowers like other insects can. Butterflies are attracted to flowers with abundant nectar supplies, and tend to visit bright coloured flowers, especially red, orange and purple. Butterflies have a weak sense of smell, but can see better than some other pollinators. They are also very active during the day and tend to visit a great number of flowers.
- "Butterfly Pollination.” USDA Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers. http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/butterflies.shtml