Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Couple of Pollinator Surprises

Did you know that common garden Chives, with the green leaves that make such a savory addition to salads, soups and other dishes, is also a native North American plant?  I didn't.

Did you know that the common Greenbottle Fly, normally thought of as a pest species, can also be a great pollinator? I didn't.

Hey, live and learn right? Even if sometimes it takes decades.

The flowers of Chives are very attractive to pollinators, and I have seen numerous bees visiting them. Today's photo, however, is of a Greenbottle Fly.

Some flies are known as good pollinators, especially the hover flies. But in the last couple of years I have noticed lots of higher flies (muscids, tachinids, calliphorids) visiting blossoms as well.

The Greenbottle lays its eggs on carrion, and it is a very common species in cities. The adults also seem to visit flowers frequently, probably foraging on nectar as an energy source. These flies are often thought of as pests in cities, because their presence suggests poor food handling and because the adults may spread bacteria.

One recent study, however, found that higher flies (apart from Hover Flies) were among the most important pollinators of some plants, based on the total number of flower visits observed.

Now it doesn't look like Greenbottles are going to disappear from our cities any time soon. So let's just be glad that they also enjoy pollinating our garden plants.

[Photo by D. Barr]

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