Native flies leading the charge to help pollinate mango trees in new UNE study

Published 10 June 2015

Native flies not bees have come out as one of the top pollinators of mango trees according to a new study by a University of New England researcher.

Dr Romina Rader, Lecturer in Environmental Management at the University of New England investigated the efficiency of a range of different pollinators that visit mango flowers on 10 farms in the Mareeba region in Queensland.

Dr Rader catching mango insects

Dr Rader catching mango insects

“We found that native flies visited 20% more frequently than bees and they were among the top transporters of pollen.”

The study found that 44 different insects visited the flowers during the survey, the twelve most frequent visitors included two bee species, nine flies and one beetle.

“Of all the flies, the small black tip fly (Rhiniidae) visited with the highest frequency, and beetles accounted for less than 4% of all visits.”

Dr Rader said the research also looked at how much pollen each insect transferred in a single flower visit.

“In terms of the amount of pollen transferred to a single mango flower, the native bee and several flies performed better than the honeybee. The native bee transferred on average about seven pollen grains per visit, the honey bee 2.7 pollen grains. The blue blowfly about 6.8 pollen grains.”

Dr Rader said if growers want to attract and keep these pollinators they need to give them the resources needed to see out their life cycle.

“This may include planting native plants close to your orchard that produce lots of nectar and pollen at times when the mango tree isn’t in flower.”

Dr Rader now hopes to expand her work to include pollen viability and how yield differs when pollen is transferred by different insects.