Dipteran pollinators

Dipteran pollination is less wellunderstood tahn bee pollination, often underestimated, and largely ignored. We know very little of the pollination biology of flies because existing data are ill databased and thus inaccessible, reference collections do not cover most of the biodiversity, and there is a lack of trained Diptera taxonomists and pollination ecologists.The major aim of the PINDIP project is therefore to organize a network to collect, manage, and share information on dipteran pollinators from the Afrotropics.

One of the more specific aims is to database five of the main Sub-Saharan Diptera (Brachycera) reference collections in Africa, and one in Europe (see partners), with emphasis on seven of the most important brachyceran families (target families) involved in pollination (Bombyliidae, Calliphoridae, Mythicomyiidae, Nemestrinidae, Rhiniidae, Syrphidae, and pangonine Tabanidae), and make these data publically accessible, Below, we give a short introduction to these families; more information on these families can be found in the upcoming Manual of Afrotropical Diptera. Click here for more information on the Manual. Note that the pictures of the various families in the links provided below (from bugguide) are for North American species, we will soon provide more pictures of Afrotropical species! 


The Bombyliidae are a large (> 4,500 species) family of flies. It is arguably one of the most poorly known families of insects relative to its species richness. They range in size from 2 mm in length to very large for flies (wingspan of some 40 mm). They have powerful wings and are found typically in flight over flowers or resting on the bare ground exposed to the sun. When at rest, many species hold their wings at a characteristic "swept back" angle. Adults generally feed on nectar and pollen and often have very long probosces. Many Bombyliidae superficially resemble bees  and this may represent an example of Batesian mimicry, affording the adults some protection from predators. The lifecycles of most species are known poorly, or not at all. The larval stages of Bombyliidae are predators or parasitoids of the eggs and larvae of other insects.

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The Calliphoridae (blow flies, carrion flies, bluebottles, greenbottles) are a Diptera family with 1,100 known species. Calliphoridae adults are commonly shiny with metallic colouring, often with blue, green, or black thoraces and abdomens. Adult blow flies are occasional pollinators, and are especially being attracted to flowers with strong odors. Larvae of most species are scavengers of carrion and dung.

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We will add a picture soon !


The family Mythicomyiidae are very tiny flies (0.5–5.0 mm) found throughout most parts of the world, especially desert and semidesert regions. They are not as common in the tropics, but genera such as Cephalodromia and Platypygus are known from these regions. Many species have humpbacked thoraces and lack the dense vestiture common in the Bombyliidae.

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Nemestrinidae is a small (300 species) family of flies. Adults are often observed on flowers  and the larvae are endoparasitoids of either grasshoppers (Trichopsideinae) or scarab beetles (Hirmoneurinae). Some species are considered important in the control of grasshopper populations.

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Rhiniidae are medium-sized, gray or brownish flies , the back body usually with yellow spots. Some are metallic colored, the thorax usually has dark stripes on the back. They resemble the superficial Muscidae.

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Hoverflies, sometimes called flower flies, or syrphid flies  are a large group (> 6,000 species worldwide) of flies which, as their common name suggests, are often seen hovering. The adults of many species feed mainly on nectar and pollen and many species play an important role in the pollination of flowering plants. The larvae of many species are notorious predators of aphids and the larvae of other insects, and are useful for biological control, while the larvae of other species have been used for the control of weeds.

Picture database

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The Tabanidae is a worldwide group of mainly blood-sucking flies which, because of their nuisance and potential role in disease transmission, are of great economic importance. However, several species of the subfamily Pangoniinae (long-tongued horse flies) are known pollinators.

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