Flies Frequent Visitors to Flowers
If it existed in the corporate world, the relationship between flowers
and insects would be called a partnership. In such a relationship both
sides benefit. The flower receives pollen transport; the insect gets food.
The most common type of insect in partnership with flowers is the bee.
In fact, the lives of bees are dependent on food from flowers. But other
groups of insects also visit flowers. Some just happen to find the flower
a convenient landing place, but others feed there.
Some types of flies are commonly found on flowers. Unlike bees, flies
found on flowers live two distinct lives. The adults feed on nectar and
pollen while their immatures feed in a totally different situation. For
instance, blow flies. The name of these flies is based on the fact that
their immatures feed on dead, bloated animals.
Regular old house flies are also found on flowers. While their sponge-like
mouthparts won't allow these flies sip nectar or chew pollen, they are
able to sop up any sweet material on the flower surface. Their larvae
are found feeding in all kinds of decaying waste material.
Another fly that spends its immature stages in decaying material, including
animal manure, is the soldier fly. These bright-colored flies are usually
found on flowers and resemble wasps.
One of the most consistent fly visitors to flowers is sometimes called
the hover fly. This name is based on its behavior of hovering in the air
and then suddenly darting to another location to hover again. Hover flies
are also called syrphid or flower flies. These adult flies live entirely
on pollen and nectar. Their larvae are parasites of eggs and young of
other insects. Because of this behavior, hover flies are good to have
around the garden.
Hover flies exhibit the markings and color patterns of bees and wasps.
The resemblance to these stinging insects is such that predators treat
the flies with respect. It is a good example of how an insect that mimics
a potentially harmful one benefits. This is protection by deception.
One of the hover flies is such a remarkable mimic of honey bees that
ancient people could not tell the two insects apart. This fly is called
a rat-tailed maggot in the immature stage. That is because the larvae
have a long rat-like tail that is a breathing tube. The maggot lives in
pits of liquid manure or fluid from rotting animal carcasses. This is
the insect that gave rise to the ancient idea that honey bees were generated
in carcasses of rotting cattle.
Another type of fly frequently found on flowers is appropriately called
a bee fly. Many of the bee flies are hairy and, because of this and their
coloration, they resemble bees. Hence their name. The bee flies have a
long proboscis, which they can use to suck nectar from the flower while
they hover. Like the hover flies, the immatures of bee flies live an entirely
different life from their parents. Just like the drone flies, bee fly
larvae are parasites of other insect larvae and eggs.
So the bees visit flowers in order to collect food for themselves and
their young. Flies, on the other hand, visit flowers to feed themselves.
But in both instances, the flower benefits from its insect visitors. That
is what the partnership is all about--everybody wins!