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Azaleas provide a tranquil and festive springtime atmosphere to any lawn or garden. But despite this flower’s iconic pink color and multiple, flat-shaped petals, the azalea is also a prominent pollinator for other plants in your garden or yard. Azalea pollination attracts many pollinators, but do butterflies like azaleas?
Yes, azaleas are a particular favorite flower of nearly all species of butterfly. Since an azalea bush contains multiple blooms, this flower also provides numerous flowers for butterflies to draw nectar and pollinate. The bright, pink color of azaleas lures butterflies, and although the azalea has limited nectar, multiple blooms ensure a sizable butterfly distribution on one azalea bush.
Why Do Azaleas Attract Butterflies?
There are few flowers quite as iconic during spring as the azalea. But this beautiful plant also holds the distinction of being a prolific pollinator. This is largely due to butterflies being a key indicator of widespread azalea pollination.
What makes azaleas such great pollinators for butterflies is both the bright, pink color of the flower, as well as its shape being beneficial for butterflies as opposed to bees. So azaleas are perfect if you want to attract butterflies and not bees.
How this is achieved is determined by the location of the anther and stigma within the pistil of the azalea flower. For bees, the anther is easily accessed since it sticks out from the azalea, whereas the stigma is a bit lower than the anther. Since bees are bulkier than butterflies, these insects will typically pollinate the anther only.
Butterflies glide easier over an azalea flower, and their wings are much larger and therefore create more opportunities for the pollen on the anther and stigma to stick to their wings.
Furthermore, butterflies are attracted to flowers with a flatter, widely-opened bloom. This allows a butterfly to land easily on the outstretched petals. Azaleas meet this characteristic, and the pink color also draws butterflies in visually.
If you want to allow for even distribution of bees and butterflies to azaleas, always plant multiple azalea bushes. Pollinating insects appreciate the easy access to nectar this flower provides. Also keep in mind that hummingbirds like azaleas as well, so feel free to plant as many azalea bushes as you have room for!
What Insects Do Azaleas Attract?
A key thing to always remember is insects happen to love azaleas. Unfortunately, this includes pests as well.
Insects and birds that feed on azalea nectar spread pollen all over surfaces that require pollen distribution. And in a way, this is also true of pests that feed on azaleas. But these insects work toward killing an azalea flower instead of simply extracting its nectar. Let’s discuss a few of these insects.
The azalea caterpillar is a type of pest that gets its name from devouring the leaves of azalea plants. During the caterpillar stage before turning into moths, these pests can completely defoliate an azalea bush if not treated against.
Since these insects do not travel far from their host, pollen distribution is minimal and pales in comparison to the damage that the insects cause.
Azalea Leaf Miner
The azalea leaf miner is a type of moth that only eats the leaves of azalea bushes. This insect’s life stage and damage to azaleas is nearly identical to the azalea caterpillar. If you do not notice the actual caterpillars, you can spot this pest’s activity by noticing yellow-colored azalea leaves.
Azalea Lace Bug
The azalea lace bug is a small, prickly-shaped bug found on the leaves of azalea bushes. To avoid detection, this bug will feed on leaves from underneath, and create a skeletal appearance on the azalea leaf. The azalea lace bug can be difficult to control when grown because of its ability to fly.
So it is always important to monitor for these insect pests of the azalea bush. Try and make your azalea bushes attractive for pollinators only.
What Is the Best Shrub To Attract Butterflies?
Apart from azaleas, lavender, tecoma, and veronica are wonderful shrubs for attracting butterflies to your yard.
Lavender, in particular, produces a sweet and pungent nectar that butterflies find irresistible. But in terms of color attractiveness and shape, azaleas are one of the best shrubs to consider for attracting butterflies.
Azaleas can also draw in some of the more elusive and beautiful types of butterflies. Both swallowtails and monarch butterflies enjoy pollinating azaleas thanks to the easy access to nectar that only their long proboscis can easily extract. This puts butterflies at an advantage over bees when it comes to azaleas.
Encore azaleas bloom in the spring and early autumn, which makes this species one of the best types of azaleas for butterflies. Just remember to plant azaleas in multiple rows to allow for maximum butterfly density.
What Flower Do Butterflies Like the Most?
In general, butterflies like brightly-colored flowers that catch their eye from far away distances. A second detail for butterfly activity is to ensure your flowers have a flat shape, but this is not a requirement since butterflies will pollinate any flower that catches their eye.
With this in mind, a flower such as the azalea meets all these characteristics in spades. A butterfly’s wings also spread pollen at a much higher rate compared to other pollinators since the wings touch both the anther and the stigma during nectar feeding. This is then transferred from flower to flower and throughout the surrounding air.
You can see why Azaleas are perfect for attracting butterflies to your garden, so don’t hesitate to grow your Azaleas out to help attract these pollinators. Just remember, because they’re so popular with hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, it pays to grow them in bunches!