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Cofrin Center for Biodiversity

Pollen Eater

Soft-winged flower beetle feeds on pollen of Marsh Marigold.

Soft-winged flower beetle feeds on pollen of Marsh Marigold.

Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) is a beautiful spring ephemeral flower locally common in wet forested areas.  Baird Creek in Green Bay offers spectacular views of this flower. This photo of a soft-winged flower beetle called Collops feeding on protein-rich pollen (and perhaps sugary nectar) shows that it’s not only humans that are attracted to this early bloomer. 

Pollen is an important food source for many herbivorous organisms that mainly feed on nectar or fruits that are often low in protein. In some Coleoptera pollen provides the nutrients needed to for growth and also to produce eggs.

Soft-winged flower beetles (family Melyridae) are not a particularly well-known group of beetles, despite the fact that over 500 species occur in North America.  Many feed on pollen, and although it would seem that this would be deleterious to the plant, the beetles inadvertently transfer pollen between flowers and can be effective pollinators, just like their more famous (and graceful) relatives, such as butterflies. 

Both flower and beetle are not only colorful accents in our spring landscape, but they also have roles to play in their ecosystems, and help to support other organisms and increase the biodiversity in our region.