Behind Bees, The Most Prolific Pollinators Are?
Any creature that interacts with flowering plants has the potential to be a pollinator. In the animal kingdom, a wide variety of animals engage in pollination practices including bats, hummingbirds, and even some species of monkeys, lizards, and rodents. Among insects, there are numerous species that visit flowers, including various wasp species, moths, butterflies, and, of course, bees.
Honey bees are the best known (and most prolific) pollinators in the world due to the frequency with which they visit flowers and the manner in which their electrostatically-charged bodies attract and distribute pollen as they work tirelessly to gather nectar. Behind honey bees and related bee species, the most prolific pollinators are hoverflies, a broad group of flies that make up the insect family Syrphidae.
If you’ve ever seen a small insect that looks like a bee, but is hovering around a flower like a hummingbird, you’ve likely seen one of the hoverfly species. The numerous species found around the world all share a common trait: their bodies are decorated in yellow and brown stripes or patterns of varying intensity in such a way that they mimic the appearance of bees and wasps (like the yellow jacket).
Like bees, hoverflies rely on flower nectar for energy and spend a significant amount of time wiggling in and out of flowers in search of it, pollinating the flowers as they go. Not only are hoverflies excellent pollinators (and a key part of the life cycle of the plants they visit), but many species are also insectivores and will prey on aphids, thrips, and other small pests, making them even more invaluable to the plant as they not only pollinate it, but protect it as well.
Image by Thomas Bresson/Wikimedia.