The flies are really annoying, right? As soon as you open the door between May and September, the house is full. Take out the newspapers on the fly, swatters and old newspapers.
But hang in there! Think about it; they must surely have their place in the grand scheme of things? Well yes; many of them are an essential part of the whole process of decomposition – and many are also pollinators!
There are around 7,000 species of flies in the UK – compared to those of 270 species of bees. However, we believe that bees are important pollinators. The flies probably make a bigger and much forgotten contribution: neglected, even ignored, because of their bad press.
There are two main types of flies: nematocera with elongate bodies and long, often feathery antennae (midges, mosquitoes, crane flies) that do not pollinate much – even though midges are the almost exclusive pollinators of cocoa, they would not have chocolate! The second type, Brachycera (more rounded bodies and short antennae), is more important in terms of pollination. Flying flies belong to this group – they are the ones that contribute the most to pollination.
Many pollinating flies are excellent bees or insects, so we could not even record them as flies. Did you also know that 40% of hoverfly species have larvae prior to other insects, so they play a secondary role in pest control? Hoverflies are also the main pollinators of most fruit trees, so we would be lost without them.
Flies also remain active at much lower temperatures than bees, so some winter-blooming plants depend on them for pollination. Just another little thing that makes them more efficient pollinators.
And despite their reputation, many flies are really beautiful: the soldier flies (some of which mimic bees / wasps) are often strikingly colored, including metallic greens, blues and browns. Take the time to look carefully. The fabulous iridescence that we see in such creatures is something that we still have trouble reproducing in pigments.
So while it's understandable that you're chasing flies out of the kitchen and when they're about to bite you, it's worth remembering that these sometimes gorgeous creatures have a very important role to play. So think about it twice before killing them!
- Learn more about pollinating insects with the #GetCumbriaBuzzing campaign from Cumbria Wildlife Trust here.