Moraea villosa flowers from August until September (2). The delicate flowers open sequentially, with only one flower open at a time. Each flower blooms for only two days, opening in late morning and remaining open until the early afternoon of the following day (6).
The primary pollinator of Moraea villosa is a species of Hopliine beetle, Peritrichia rufotibialis. Hopliine beetles are commonly referred to as monkey beetles, due to their dark, hairy bodies and elongate or thickened hind legs. As the beetle crawls to the back of the flower to feed on nectar, is becomes densely covered with pollen, so much so that it may appear yellow or orange rather than black. As well as feeding from the peacock moraea, monkey beetles also mate on them (6).
It is believed that the elaborate colouration of peacock moraea flowers have evolved to attract the pollinating monkey beetle. In some populations of M. villosa there is a striking similarity between the size and dark, shiny colour of the ‘eye-spot’ and a P. rufotibialis beetle. Even the orange or cream part of the pattern closely resembles the pollen deposited on the beetle’s back. In other M. villosa populations, the bright blue-green colour of the spot resembles the blue-green metallic colour of another pollinator, the glittering monkey beetle (Anisonyx ditus). This remarkable mimicry may have evolved to fool male insects into visiting flowers that look like females, but it is thought more likely that this pattern acts as an advertisement, to both males and females, of a suitable site for feeding and mating (6).