Monday, March 7, 2011

Flies in the Native Landscape

Syrphid Fly
Flies are often overlooked insects but they play important roles in the native landscape. Flies can be pollinators, predators and excellent recyclers of organic matter and waste.


POLLINATORS
The most commonly seen flies on flowers are Syrphid or Flower Flies. Many have black and yellow coloration to mimic bees, a survival tactic to keep predators away.

"The search for a suitable place to lay eggs requires energy, which many flies derive from flower nectar..." (Attracting Native Pollinators)

Syrphid flies are able to hover around the flowers and "can abruptly dart off in a different direction. After they land, their abdomens commonly bob up and down." (Insects of the North Woods)

The type of mouthparts that flies have will often dictate what type of flowers they will visit. "Adult flies generally have tubular, sucking mouthparts, which occasionally terminate in a fleshy spongelike pad." (Attracting Native Pollinators)

In most flies, the mouthparts are short so you will often see them on "shallow, flat flowers from which the small droplets of nectar are readily available." (Attracting Native Pollinators)

Flies also help spread the fungal spores of mushrooms. Read an earlier post here about flies and mushrooms.

PREDATORS
Flies are excellent predators. Many flies in larval form predate on other insects. Some Syprhid fly larvae feed on aphids. "Other species live in ant nests where they feed on ant brood..." (Attracting Native Pollinators)


Long Legged Fly
Long Legged flies are small bright green flies with long legs. They are predators of small insects.

We have many long legged flies in our yard in mid summer. We will see them perched on the foliage of perennials.

Tachinid flies are also predatory, parasitizing caterpillars.

Friendly flies, pictured below parasitize the Forest Tent Caterpillar.



Robber Fly




Robber Flies, another bee mimic are voracious predators. They are "strong flyers, and usually capture prey on the wing. It is not unusual for them to capture insects larger than themselves". (Insects of the North Woods)


Friendly Fly
RECYCLERS
Muscid fly larvae "live in dung, carrion, or other decomposing organic debris and eat bacteria or prey on other dung inhabitants." (Attracting Native Pollinators)



Muscid Fly

Some bee mimic flies "make use of mimicry to enter the nests of bumble bees, where they lay their eggs. They are not parasites on the bumble bees; their larvae act as nest cleaners, feeding on the dead bees and other detritus." (Attracting Native Pollinators)


What kind of flies do you see in your landscape?