Pollination: The Flies Have It


Left: A fly samples the petals of a crocus
Right: A honey bee collects pollen from a crocus

When asked about pollinators, most people immediately think about bees. Bees use plant pollen as a protein source to feed their offspring and must visit flowers. Other insects may also feed on pollen and ingest it as a protein source to provision their eggs. These insects (non-bees) are also important pollinators.

A team of scientists* investigated pollination and observed that insects other than bees performed 25–50% of the total number of flower visits. The non-bees were found to be less efficient than bees, but compensated for the inefficiency with more flower visits. Non-bees make a substantial contribution to pollination of our food crops. Further, non-bees may respond to landscape management in a manner different than bees. Efforts to preserve and enhance pollinators should account for both bees and other insect pollinators.

*Romina Rader and colleagues. Non-bee insects are important contributors to global crop pollination
PNAS 2016 113 (1) 146-151; vol. 113 no. 1

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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