Amongst the flies it is the hoverflies that definitely stand alone as the most important pollinators.
They pollinate mainly flowers but also occasionally grasses and trees. Arguably, they pollinate even more than bees do but yet they are unfortunately generally given very little credit for this.
There are 109 species of hoverfly that have been recorded in Jersey and they are a very diverse and fascinating group of flies!
They are a very varied group that come in a range of sizes and colours. Many are impressive mimics of bees and wasps and are often confused with these. Some hoverflies even make a buzzing sound just like the bee that they look like! This is done to help protect them from predators as most of these will avoid bees and wasps for obvious reasons! And while looking very similar to your venomous cousin can be useful in many ways it can also cause confusion with us whether they are a hornet, a wasp or a fly! And this can unfortunately lead to them being killed inadvertently, or purposefully, which is a real pity when they are not only completely harmless but also incredibly vital pollinators.
Their name comes from their ability to hover steady in one spot allowing them to react quickly to any threat and to accurately land on flowers to feed.
As mentioned, bees have traditionally been hailed as the most important pollinator group and understandably so as bees covered in pollen is a common sight but the role that hoverflies play in pollination has long been underestimated but more recent scientific evidence has shown that hoverflies are, in fact, very effective pollinators of a wide range of flowers, some grasses and plantains and also some trees and shrubs.
Because many hoverflies are not obviously hairy, though some indeed are such as Volucella spp and Merodon spp, it was assumed that pollen grains would not stick to them very much but most hoverflies are covered in small hairs over most of their body and can very effectively transfer pollen from one flower to another.
While hoverflies may not be able to carry as much pollen as bees they move between flowers much more often and this allows them to be more effective at pollination than bees.
As mentioned, some hoverflies are mimics of bees and bumblebees and it is these species that can indeed carry as much pollen as any of their mimics can as they are usually just as hairy as the bees they mimic.
Hoverflies do not carry pollen back to a nest for their young to feed on like many bees do so they will never that ball of pollen attached to the rear leg often seen on bumblebees and honey bees.
Hoverflies feed on both pollen and nectar and they use the energy they get from these to produce eggs and therefore the next generation of these enigmatic colourful pollinators!
One hoverfly in particular has recently been receiving an unfortunate hard time due to its similar look to the invasive, non-native Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax).
The Hornet Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) is large and as its name suggests it mimics our native European Hornet (Vespa crabro) and so does look similar to a hornet but recently has been mistaken many times for the Asian Hornet with this often sadly resulting in it being killed by unsuspecting members of the public.
But the good news is that recently the public of Jersey have got much better at telling them apart, or at least waiting to ask someone before killing it, and so hopefully this impressive harmless native hoverfly pollinator will be safer from now on.
While hoverflies are the pollinator champions within the fly world there are nonetheless many other types of fly that also contribute.
Bee-flies, tachinid flies and conopid flies are amongst these but as most flies are quite hairy then any that regularly feed on flowers will also provide pollination services.
Click the links below to learn more about the other main groups of insect pollinators: