If stabilizing selection by pollinators is a prerequisite for pollinator-mediated ﬂoral evolution, spatiotemporal variation in the pollinator assemblage may confuse the plant–pollinator interaction in a given species. Here, effective pollinators in a living fossil plant Nelumbo nucifera (Nelumbonaceae) were examined to test whether beetles are major pollinators as predicted by its pollination syndrome. Pollinators of N. nucifera were investigated in 11 wild populations and one cultivated population, and pollination experiments were conducted to examine the pollinating role of two major pollinators (bees and beetles) in three populations. Lotus ﬂowers are protogynous, bowl shaped and without nectar. The fragrant ﬂowers can be self-heating during anthesis and produce around 1 million pollen grains per ﬂower. It was found that bees and ﬂies were the most frequent ﬂower visitors in wild populations, contributing on average 87.9 and 49.4 % of seed set in Mishan and Lantian, respectively. Beetles were only found in one wild population and in the cultivated population, but the pollinator exclusion experiments showed that beetles were effective pollinators of Asian sacred lotus. This study indicated that in their pollinating role, beetles, probable pollinators for this thermoregulating plant, had been replaced by some generalist insects in the wild. This ﬁnding implies that contemporary pollinators may not reﬂect the pollination syndrome.