Insect colour preference compared to flower colours in the Australian Alps
An apparent predominance of plant taxa with pale flowers in the alpine floras of Australia and New Zealand may be due to the prevalence of insects, such as flies, that prefer pale colours and the absence of other types of potential pollinators that are attracted to bright colours such as social bees and birds. In this study, the diversity of flower colours, and the preference of insects for different colours were examined for the largest contiguous alpine area in Australia, around Mt Kosciuszko. Out of an alpine flora of 204 taxa, 127 species were found to have large showy flowers. The most common flower colour among these taxa was white (53.5%), then yellow (21.3%), followed by pink (6.3%), and cream (6.3%). Only a handful of taxa had red, blue, brown, green, orange or purple flowers. When the colour preference of insects was tested using five different coloured traps (white, yellow, orange, red and purple), the most successful traps were white then yellow, with these two colours accounting for 66% of all individual insects collected. Diptera were the most common insects caught (576 insects greater than 4 mm in length, 31 morphotaxa) showing an apparent preference for white and yellow coloured traps over others. Therefore, the results add some support to the proposition that the 'white' flora of the Australian Alps may be associated with the colour preference of flies, which have previously been found to be the most common type of pollinators in the Kosciuszko alpine zone.
Nordic Journal of Botany