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Manitoba Museum

Flies (Diptera)

Flower Flies


Flower Flies are the most important fly pollinators of prairie wildflowers and of plants in agricultural systems like orchards. Adults frequently hover in mid-air and feed on nectar and pollen. Larvae can be important predators of pests like aphids, but may also attack bulbs and tubers of vegetables and ornamental plants. Some species, though harmless, mimic bees and wasps to help them avoid predators.

Representative Genera and Species:

Allograpta, Cheilosia, Eristalis, Epeodes, Helophilus, Mylepta, Pipiza, Sphaerophoria, Spilomyia, Syritta, Syrphus

Pollinator Life Cycle:

Adults feed on flower nectar and pollen. Females require nutrients from pollen for proper egg development. Eggs are laid in places such as muddy water, nests of bumblebees, or near aphid colonies. The larvae consume organic matter in soil, leaves, or other insects.

Rarity Status:

The status of Canadian species has not yet been assessed, and none are legally protected.

Physical Appearance:

These small to medium sized flies range in size from 4 mm to over 25 mm long. They have two membrane-like wings, and tube-like mouthparts for sucking. Their colour ranges from bright yellow or orange to black, with some exhibiting iridescence. Species that mimic bees and wasps have yellow and black striping, and often narrow, wasp-like waists.

Pollinator Habitat:

Larvae develop in a diverse range of habitats, including litter and dead wood, aquatic environments, or insect nests (often those of bees). Adults occur in almost all habitats. They are usually found associated with the flowers they use for food and mating.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland/Labrador
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nova Scotia
  • Nunavut
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie
Flower Flies