Sometimes we get so used to seeing ants visiting extrafloral nectaries, it seems unexpected to see them visiting regular floral nectaries.
Take this shrubby dogwood flower (probably gray dogwood, Cornus racemosa). The nectaries are the creamy yellow bands at the base of the female part of the flower (the pistil or carpel) in the center.
Formica workers seemed to be visiting the plants most frequently, although other ants were in the area.
Ants weren’t the only insects attracted to the nectaries of the dogwood flowers.
Along with the usual wasps, flies and bees, there were also more unusual true bugs and beetles.
A number of the smaller butterflies stopped by, including hairstreaks and blues.
It turns out azure butterflies in particular are attracted to these types of dogwoods and lay their eggs on them. What happens next? Of course, the ants tend the azure caterpillars! Nature Posts blog has an incredible series of photographs and videos of ants tending azure butterfly caterpillars.
Interested in planting a garden for ants or butterflies? You might want to consider planting some of the dogwoods (Cornus sp.)
Have you ever seen azure caterpillars on dogwoods? I am definitely going to be looking from now on.