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I saw the same insects on the same flower, which is field scabious Knautia arvensis. They seem to like this flower for some reason, or maybe its just the right habitat and these flowers are blooming at the right time? Does anyone know?
My observation: http://www.ispot.org.uk/node/2584
University of Edinburgh and Biodiversity Observatory (OU)
Field Scabious does seem to attract a lot of insects, and must presumably be a good source of nectar (and pollen in some cases). It has relatively long-tubed flowers, so may provide a reservoir of nectar for long-tongued insects (such as Six-spot Burnet) that avoids competition with shorter-tonged ones.
I'm not aware of any particular or obligatory ecological link between Six-spot Burnet and Field Scabious, but as you say it may just be the combination of time of year and occurrence in the same habitat.
Entomologist and biological recorder
I'd speculate it is the colour that attracts them as much as anything else. There's no Field Scabious on the meadow at Walton Hall (not that I've seen at least), but the Burnets plus plenty of other butterflies and moths are attracted to Knapweed. Various Thistles and Buddleia are also popular with a variety of insects. I believe Bees can see markings on flowers in the ultraviolet spectrum, so maybe that applies to other insects too?
I'd heard that white flowers were often a sign that a plant was insect-pollinated(due to ultraviolet)so maybe there's a similar thing with purple?
"Wildlife is for Everyone"
OK I'll pitch in with a proposal that it's nothing more than the shape that attracts the moths. A big flat flower like the scabious simply makes an easy landing pad for a clumsy flyer like the burnet.
The purple of the flower is likely to play a part, it has long been known in wildflower gardening circles that purple buddlia attract more insects than the other colours - I say long been known but as far as I'm aware never been proven empirically - I smell a dissertation proposal in the offing!
However, as ever in nature the truth is probably a combination of all the above suggestions.
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Following on from the various comments about insects seeing in ultraviolet, I just stumbled on this website that has images of flowers in both visible and ultraviolet (and sometimes infrared) light: http://www.naturfotograf.com/UV_flowers_list.html
There are some spectacular examples of how different flowers can look e.g.
Very useful, Jase, Thanks.
It looks as if the plants use ultraviolet markings to guide the insects towards the pollen.
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