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The forgotten flies: study finds insects are key to pollination

Farmland fly

Press release issued: 25 March 2015

Flies play an important role as pollinators and should no longer be neglected in pollination studies, according to a new study led by University of Bristol researchers, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Bees, hoverflies and butterflies are insects frequently studied as pollinators in agricultural and conservation research. Until now, flies other than hoverflies (non-syrphid Diptera) have been assumed to be unimportant and are often neglected in these types of studies.

New research, funded by NERC (the Natural Environment Research Council) and led by academics at Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, has found no significant difference in pollen-loads between hoverflies and the non-syrphid Diptera in an analysis of 30 pollen-transport and 71 pollinator-visitation networks.

Using data taken from 33 UK farms, the researchers estimated that non-syrphid Diptera carry around 84 per cent of the total pollen carried by all farmland flies.

Katy Orford, the study’s lead researcher in the School of Biological Sciences, said: “As important pollinators, such as bees, have suffered serious declines, this study is important because it suggests flies could potentially provide insurance against the loss of the ecosystem service of pollination. Future studies should explore other stages of the pollination process, beyond pollen transport, to further determine the role of the non-Syrphid Diptera as pollinators.”

Further information


The forgotten flies: the importance of non-syrphid Diptera as pollinators ‘ by Katy Orford et al. in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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