Are you a fan of the 19th Century

scientist, Charles Darwin?

If so, this website is for you!  


This website aims to draw together key publications, media and websites on Charles Darwin for the enthusiast.

Tree of Lifecrop orchidjpegcrop

Darwin & The Butterfly - Lesson Ideas

1) Look at a video of a pyramidal orchid being visited by a Six Spot

Burnet Moth.  Look at a close up of the moth feeding and 'picking

up' pollinia.  See how the pollinia angles change whilst on the proboscis.

Spot the curly proboscis!  Give pupils a party streamer

to blow to show how a proboscis unfurls.  Look at a photo of a Large

Skipper butterfly with pollinia.  Look at a close-up of the pollinia. Its

interesting that pyramidal orchid is normally a nectarless species and that

the flowers only have a faint, sweet, scent, which they emit mainly at night.

If you are lucky enough to be close to a place where pyramidal orchids

grow - visit it!  If you wish, you can also consider the similarities and

differences between butterflies and moths.  


2) Buy a Buddleia plant and investigate which  types of insect visits it.  Also known as the 'Butterfly Bush' you'll soon  find that its popular with butterflies!  Which species?  Look at a video of a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly feeding on Buddleia. Buddleia has loose pollen rather than pollinia; can you dislodge some?  Investigate which garden plants are good for butterflies.


3) Consider what attracts insects to flowers - colour, scent, nectar, similar appearance to insect. Have children design a large 3D paper flower with a hole at the base or a simpler version.  Let children decide if they want to also use perfumes and nectar (squash etc.) to make their flowers attractive. Is it worth the energy for the 'plant'?  Get  pupils from another class to give each flower scores for appearance, scent and 'taste of nectar' (sucked through a straw from a cup via the hole in the paper flower).   Which wins and then is likely to get visited and pollinated  most?




* Orchids are the most highly evolved flowers.  The mechanism by which pollinia are transferred is considered highly effective.

* Flowers and their pollinators have co-evolved.  Coevolution is the mutual evolutionary influence between two species (the evolution of two species totally dependent on each other).  Each of the species involved exerts 'selective' pressure on the other, so that they evolve together.   The pollinator often gets a reward such as nectar for pollinating the plant.  During the Cenozoic period (which began 65 million years ago) the first bees, butterflies, moths and wasps started appearing, conveniently at the same time as the flowering plants were diversifying.  Flowers were also specialising to attract a certain type or species of insect or animal to increase the chances of pollination.  In the case of Pyramidal orchid, Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies).