Many of our mountain flowers depend on insects for pollination and many insects depend on flowers for nectar and pollen as food. On sunny days, this intimate relationship between insects and flowers causes beautiful scenes in mountain meadows where colorful butterflies frolic from flower to flower. Did you know that flies are pollinators too?
When hiking in the Alps you often see loads of flies next to the mountain path on unspecialized flowers, such as all sorts of species with umbellifer flowers. The petals of these flowers are often white, because flies cannot distinguish colors very well. However, the characteristic yellow ball-shaped flowers of the globe flower (Trollius europaeus) are also pollinated by small flies. In fact, in our mountains, flies are the most common pollinators at high altitudes.
Bumblebees are, just like flies, also of great importance for the pollination of alpine plants, because they can fly in colder and windier conditions than butterflies. Bees can fly at temperatures as low as 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit)!
Shift in pollinators at high altitude
In short, when elevation changes, a shift in pollinator groups takes place. In the Alps, beetles and bees become less abundant, while butterflies, bumblebees and particularly flies become more important at higher elevations.
When & where to look for pollinators
Pollinators prefer sunny days. So, look for them during any hiking trip in the Alps when the sun is out. When there are flowers and sunshine, then there are definitely pollinators around!
And if you are in Chamonix starting your Tour du Mont Blanc or Chamonix to Zermatt Haute route, you can also check out the bee hotel in town. It is located just behind the church. You might see some solitary bees flying around.