Who pollinates flowers the most?

Answered by Edward Huber

Hoverflies are often overlooked when it comes to discussing pollinators, but they play a crucial role in the pollination of flowers. In fact, they are one of the most prolific pollinators in the world. These small insects, also known as flower flies, belong to the family Syrphidae.

One of the remarkable aspects of hoverflies is their ability to visit a wide variety of flowers. They have been observed visiting at least 72% of global food crops, including fruits, vegetables, and oilseed crops. This means that hoverflies contribute significantly to the production of many of the foods we consume on a daily basis. Whether it’s pollinating apple orchards, tomato plants, or strawberry fields, hoverflies are hard at work.

But it’s not just cultivated crops that benefit from hoverfly pollination. They are also important pollinators for over 70% of animal-pollinated wildflowers. From meadows to forests, hoverflies can be found buzzing around, transferring pollen from one flower to another. This helps in the reproduction and genetic diversity of plant species, and ultimately contributes to the overall health of ecosystems.

What makes hoverflies such effective pollinators? For one, they are highly mobile insects. They can hover in mid-air, fly backwards, and change direction rapidly, allowing them to access hard-to-reach flowers and navigate complex floral landscapes. This agility enables them to visit a large number of flowers in a relatively short period of time, increasing the chances of successful pollination.

Another interesting characteristic of hoverflies is their resemblance to bees and wasps. Many hoverfly species have evolved to mimic the appearance of these stinging insects, a phenomenon known as Batesian mimicry. This mimicry serves as a defense mechanism, protecting hoverflies from potential predators who mistake them for their more aggressive counterparts. This resemblance to bees and wasps also allows hoverflies to exploit floral resources that are often associated with these insects, such as nectar and pollen. By doing so, hoverflies inadvertently transfer pollen between flowers, aiding in pollination.

Personal experiences with hoverflies have made me appreciate their importance as pollinators. I have often observed them buzzing around my garden, visiting a variety of flowering plants. Their presence brings a sense of vibrancy and life to the space. On one occasion, I noticed a hoverfly diligently moving from flower to flower on a tomato plant. It was fascinating to witness the intricate dance between the insect and the plant, as the hoverfly collected nectar and inadvertently transferred pollen in the process.

Hoverflies are incredibly important pollinators, visiting a wide range of flowers including both cultivated crops and wildflowers. Their mobility, ability to mimic bees and wasps, and their role as prolific pollinators make them an integral part of our ecosystems. The next time you see a hoverfly buzzing around your garden, take a moment to appreciate the vital work they do in ensuring the reproduction and survival of our plant species.