After bees, butterflies are the most well known pollinators. Massachusetts has a little over a hundred butterflies listed by Mass Audubon on their website - massaudubonbutterflyatlas.org. This list includes the swallowtails (family Papilionidae), the whites and sulphurs (family Pieredae), the gossamer wings (family Lycaenidae), which include coppers, hairstreaks, blues, elfins etc., the rare snout butterfly (family Libytheidae), the brushfoots (family Nymphalidae), which include fritilaries, checkerspots, tortoiseshells etc., the browns, wood nymphs and satyrs (subfamily Satyrinae/family Nymphalidae), milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae) which includes the monarch and queen butterflies, and finally, the skippers (superfamily Hesperioidea).
Butterflies are the second best pollinators after bees. They do not have special pollen carrying structures like bees, but they are well able to do their fair share of pollinating flowers. Butterflies perch to eat, so they prefer flowers with a landing platform. As they move around to find nectar, their long legs collect pollen. They make up for the smaller amount of pollen they carry by flitting from flower to flower, and covering more distance than bees do.
Like butterflies, moths belong to the order Lepidoptera, and by far, outnumber butterflies. They are further divided and belong to the suborder Frenatae, Common moths include the banded woollybear caterpillar moth (Pyrrharctia isabella), giant leopard moth (ecpantheria scribonia), hummingbird moth (Hemaris sp.), luna moth (Actias luna). Insectidentification.org for Massachusetts lists many other moths seen in Massachusetts.
While butterflies and some moths are busy pollinating during the day, most species of moths take over after dark. Moths are more hairy than butterflies which help in pollination. Planting a moon garden made up of white or pale blooms will draw moths, as these flowers tend to almost glow in the moonlight. These plants also tend to be very fragrant and sweet smelling, an attribute night bloomers use to attract pollinators. Moths love tubular blooms which make it easy for them to drink the nectar.
Another night pollinator is the bat. Unfortunately, the only bats that pollinate in the United States are in the southwest where they feed on agaves and cactus.
Hummingbirds are the primary bird pollinators in the continental United States, and the only hummer in eastern United States is the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilocus colubris). While the bird feeds on nectar, the pollen sticks to the feathers around the birds bill and face and is then transported to the next flower. It is not always necessary to feed hummingbirds - I have regular visitors every year to my petunias, hostas, coral bells, daylilies, foxgloves and beebalm among others. They like tubular, nodding and brightly colored flowers. Use single flowers, as doubles make it difficult for them to obtain the nectar. Incidentally, if you think you see a "baby hummingbird", it may be a hummingbird moth!
According to Mass Audubon, there are two flies in Massachusetts that are pollinators. One is the flower fly (family Syrphiadae), which are excellent mimics of wasps, and the other is the bee fly. The bee fly (family Bombyliidae) looks like a bumblebee and although they do not have the pollen carrying structures on their legs like bees, they are fuzzy enough to pick up pollen and easily transport it to other flowers. For those who are chocolate lovers, the cocoa tree must be pollinated by midges (family Ceratopogonidae), small flies like no-see-ums. No midge, no chocolate.
Beetles are one of our oldest pollinators and generally visit white to green colored bowl-shaped flowers. Here in New England, our oldest pollinators seem to prefer pollinating the descendants of those ancient flowering plants they pollinated 150 million years ago, primarily the magnolia and yellow water lilies. They also pollinate the paw-paw, sassafras, and sweet shrub. These plants are easily accessible to the beetle, and have adapted to the beetles damaging habits. The beetles in this area include the sap-feeding beetles (family Nitidulidae), leaf beetles (family Chrysomelidae), tumbling flower beetles (family Mordellidae) and weevils (family Curculionidae).
Ants and Slugs
Ants and slugs are not known to be very efficient pollinators. Ants visit inconspicuous, low-growing flowers that are close to the stem. Examples include stonecrop, spurge and penstemon beard tongue. Slugs occasionally pollinate plants - wild ginger is one example.
One of the best ways to help pollinators thrive and beautify your yard, is to plant a native pollinator garden. Six native plants to grow as pollinators in Massachusetts. These include wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), wild lupine (Lupinus perennis), smooth swamp-milkweed (Asclepias incarnatal), birds foot violet (Viola pedata), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) and goldenrods (Solidago species). The great variety in color, shape, and scent we see in flowers are a result of their association with their pollinators over millions of years. These various flower traits or characteristics which are associated with different pollinators are known as pollination syndromes, and are illustrated on the Pollinator Syndrome Traits Table. You can use this table to help you identify the potential pollinator you may see with different flower characteristics.
Get to know your garden better this year. Grab a notebook and see how many pollinators you can identify. Utilize the Pollinator Syndrome Traits Table to decide on what types of flowers you want to plant to attract a specific pollinator, for example butterflies. But most of all, have fun!
Selecting Plants for Pollinators. A Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest, Oceanic Province. Elizabeth L. Ley www.pollinator.org andwww.nappc.org (North American Pollinator Protection Campaign).
www.fs.fed.us (United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Wildflowers, pollinators, gardening, what is pollination, birds and bees, animals/birds, animals, unusual pollination, pollinator of the month, plant strategies, friendly practices).
www.massaudubon.org (your great outdoors/six-native-plants-to-grow-for-pollinators, learn/nature-wildlife/insects-arachnids/bees-wasps/types-of-bees-&-wasps-in-Massachusetts).
https://en.m.wikipedia.org (pollinator, self-pollination, pollination).