Flies as pollinators

Bees and butterflies are the best known, but certainly not the only, pollinators. Flies contribute too! Flies are not the most glamorous of insects, but they are more exciting then you might think. Sure there are the normal house flies dying on your window sills (Family Muscidae). Like all flies, they have two wings and large eyes. Some of them have sponging mouthparts that lap up food particulars you leave around. Other have piercing mouthparts, which hurt when they stick them into your arm. And when they are outside, the can sometimes pollinate flowers. IMG_2122

But beyond the common Muscidae, there are many more flies in the world. Many of which are important pollinators. I’ve previously written about my favorites, hoverflies (Family Syrphidae). As juveniles, they are predatory, feeding on soft bodied insects like aphids, and as adults they are bee mimics and important pollinators. There are many species of syrphids and some of them can be fairly abundant, making them important natural enemies and pollinators in many areas.

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As much as I love the syrphids, I am also fond of the bee flies (Family Bombyliidae). These guys are adorable and fuzzy. Adults feed on nectar and pollen and can be important pollinators. This is facilitated by the extra long proboscis the sport (pictured below). I caught this guy on my flowers and managed to get a nice video of it probing for nectar. Like syrphids, juvenile bee flies are predatory, feeding on the eggs and larvae of other insects. Although there are a great variety of them around, none are particularly abundant. But they are so cute!

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Tachnids (Family Tachinidae) are another set of interesting flies. Some of them are parasitoids, meaning they lay their eggs inside other insects. As adults, they feed on nectar and serve as pollinators. Tachnids are often covered in very spiky hairs, as you can see in the photo below.

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There are some interesting plant-insect partnerships between flowering plants and flies, but I’ll leave that for another day.


About keviclaire

I recently graduated from the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. My research interests are focused on biological control and how to increase it's use in agriculture and home gardens. I am also an avid gardener and insect photographer. I'm using this blog as a place to share those interests!

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