Greetings, dear friends, and welcome back to the blog!
Today, as you may have deduced, we will be talking about flies and their role as pollinators.
Pollinators are vastly important members of our ecosystem, regardless of their form. While bees are adorable, fuzzy creatures, flies are often seen as undesirable, detestable beings. Every creature has their niche and flies are beautifully adapted to theirs. They are also fabulous pollinators, just as bees and butterflies are, though sometimes for different species.
As with all pollinators, pollen is collected and re-distributed to other flowers, allowing the potential for increased genetic diversity to occur. This is the case across the board, whether the pollinator is aware of the pollen and actively collecting it, as with bees, or more passive and happens to brush against the plant’s stamens. This is most common with certain species of butterfly or moth, and larger animals like bats and mice. Today, however we shall limit ourselves to flies and their role in the ecology of place.
They largely don’t look cute, make an annoying buzzing noise, and get all up in your face any time you remotely think of sweating. Why is that, you may ask? It turns out that the sweat, dead skin, oils, and general grime from the day combine to create the musca domestica (house fly), equivalent of a full roast dinner. For my gluten-free, vegan friends out there, I’m thinking soyrizo tacos with vegan cheese and grilled onions. I didn’t realize I was hungry until I started writing about tacos.
Getting back to the flies, they are ideally designed to carry out their existence eating, defecating, and laying eggs on any possible warm surface available. That is what they are attracted. As with body odor sometimes having similar elements to decomposition, so too does a warm living body have similar elements to a bloated corpse. The body temperature is still rather high, especially when increased insect and bacteria activity are present. To quote Mother Nature Network, because they have worded it rather accurately: “This charming land-and-defecate-everywhere routine has made flies vectors of communicable diseases, ranging from typhoid to tuberculosis. The pathogens transmitted by houseflies, picked up after feasting on things like dung heaps and dead animals, are carried on their legs and around their mouths,” (1).
Out in the wild, for lack of a better phrase, flies gravitate toward to that which triggers their senses. That seems to be a universal for humans, other animals, and even plants. While flies aren’t necessarily the target audience for most plants, if the scent is particularly strong on a certain day, or there happens to be a carcass or other decomposing material in the surrounding region, there will likely be flies in the vascinity. Additionally, there are certain plants that appeal directly to flies and other decomposers.
Though often associated with carnivorous plants, botanicals designed to exhibit putrid, rotting aromas are often havens for flies of all kinds. These species include the common house fly, as mentioned above, the ever lovely mosquito, and the midge, among others. There are many species that fall into this designation, most of which appear to correspond to particular flower species. In addition to the Red Trillium (), that smells of rotting meat, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit (), that smells of fungus, there are other, perhaps better received species (2). The best example I can find of this is cacao. You read that right. Cacao trees, the origins of chocolate, are pollinated by flies—midges, to be exact. According to Beatriz Moisset of, The Web of Life, without the tiny flies, known as midges, cacao would not produce any fruits, by virtue of their mushroomy aroma and downward turned flowers (3).
While they are still annoying as anything when they get into your space, inside or otherwise, flies are integral components of the wider ecosystem. Even if you do want to smack them, sometimes.
Till next time,
Hickman, Matt. “Why do flies fly toward and land on people?” Mother Nature News, Published January 24, 2011. https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/questions/why-do-flies-fly-toward-and-land-on-people
U.S. Forest Service. “Fly Pollination,” https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/flies.shtml
Moisset, Beatriz. “The Midge and the Chocolate Lover,” The Web of Life, Published, October 5, 2009. http://pollinatingbee.blogspot.com/2009/10/midge-and-chocolate-lover.html