Ladybirds, butterflies, nectar and pollen

    Folk beliefs tell us that <blackbirds bring good luck. The butterflies, with their flight, almost seem to dance and give us moments of carefreeness. We are lucky enough to share some of the spaces of our metropolis with these little creatures, like normal fellow citizens.
    Ladybirds, butterflies, nectar and pollen

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    coccinelle

    Ladybirds

    What many people do not expect is that ladybirds, belonging to the coleoptera order, really do bring good luck. Indeed, it is thanks to them, along with many other pollinating insects, that we are able to bring various foods to our table and ensure the protection of biodiversity. In particular, as ladybirds are natural predators of mites and aphids, they play a fundamental role in the 'biological defence' of plants against these pests. There are about 5,000 species of coccinellas worldwide, each of which plays an important role in the ecosystem and, like other beetles, are recognisable by elithers, of different colours and typically polka-dotted, which protect the 'lower wings' underneath.

    farfalla

    Farfalle

    Butterflies, of the order lepidoptera, recognised for their shapes, colours and graceful flight, feed on the nectar of many types of flowers, but some particularly attract them. For example, butterflies appreciate flowers with open, flat shapes, such as those of daisies and sunflowers, but also flowers with a tubular shape, such as those of sage and petunias. Being migratory beings and capable of flying long distances (a Monarch butterfly can travel up to 50 km in a single day!), and being endowed with an amazing sense of direction, not yet fully understood by scientists, they are able to exchange pollen between distant plants, promoting the spread of genetic diversity, which is so important for plant biodiversity. The spirotromba of butterflies, erroneously known as the 'proboscis', is used to suck nectar through even the most impenetrable corolla.

    Nectar

    But why do these insects like flowers so much? And what drives them to perform these laborious roles? Nectar and pollen are often confused, but although there is a close association, they are not the same substance. In fact, pollen and nectar are both produced by plants, but have different functions. The nectar is a sweet, viscous substance produced by glands in the leaves, flowers or stems of plants. Its main purpose is to attract insects to the flowers to facilitate cross-pollination (from one plant to another).

    polline

    Pollen

    The pollen, on the other hand, is composed of microscopic granules that contain the male reproductive cells of plants. These cells are carried by the wind or by pollinating insects (hence the name) to the female parts of the same or another plant, where fertilisation occurs. Plants have evolved to produce particularly sweet nectar (about 25 per cent of this is sugar) in order to attract insects and ensure the movement of pollen, thus their reproduction.

    coccinelle

    Threats

    Nowadays, green areas in metropolises are progressively being reduced and the ecological corridors between them are disappearing, turning gardens and city parks into veritable islands where the biodiversity of the plants they host is threatened by the inconsiderate use of pesticides and the scarce presence of pollinating insects. Considering precisely the decrease in the number of bees, recognised as the main pollinators, 'secondary' pollinators are assuming an increasingly important role, although they too are threatened by pollution and the consequences of climate change.

    casetta impollinatori

    Cities for pollinators

    More and more projects are springing up to protect insects including butterflies and ladybirds. For example, specific green areas have been established, urban gardening projects are being promoted and measures to reduce the use of pesticides have been put in place. However, to ensure the survival of urban pollinators, even more needs to be done. It is important to make the population aware of the importance of these animals and the actions that can be taken to protect them. At 3Bee, we have therefore introduced the Biodiversity Adventure trails, which, through the use of infographics and special houses that provide shelter, aim to raise awareness for the safeguarding of these precious beings, often taken for granted.

    By Elena FraccaroApril 17, 2023
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