You may think of flies as pests, but they are an important part of different ecosystems all around the world. They fulfill many important roles in food webs. They act as decomposers, breaking down dead plants and animals into nutrients for the soil. They serve as food for other species such as birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles. They are also essential for plants as pollinators. Fly-pollinated plants in turn provide food for people and other animals.

Flies are the most important pollinators next to bees. We can thank flies for pollinating the flowers that produce many of the foods we eat everyday!

Flies are attracted to the colour and smell of flowers. They collect and drink nectar, which gives them nutrients and energy. As they drink nectar, the little bristles on their bodies touch the anthers and pick up pollen. As they move from flower to flower they leave the pollen from other flowers behind, fertilizing the plants’ eggs. The most common fly pollinators are bee flies, flower flies, soldier flies and parasitic flies.

You may think of flies as pests, but they are an important part of different ecosystems all around the world. They fulfill many important roles in food webs. They act as decomposers, breaking down dead plants and animals into nutrients for the soil. They serve as food for other species such as birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles. They are also essential for plants as pollinators. Fly-pollinated plants in turn provide food for people and other animals.

Flies are the most important pollinators next to bees. We can thank flies for pollinating the flowers that produce many of the foods we eat everyday!

Flies are attracted to the colour and smell of flowers. They collect and drink nectar, which gives them nutrients and energy. As they drink nectar, the little bristles on their bodies touch the anthers and pick up pollen. As they move from flower to flower they leave the pollen from other flowers behind, fertilizing the plants’ eggs. The most common fly pollinators are bee flies, flower flies, soldier flies and parasitic flies.


© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A photograph of a bee fly pollinating a Black-eyed Susan.

Bee fly on Black-eyed Susan.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bill Dean. Used with permission

Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a flower fly pollinating a Heart-leaved Alexander.

A flower fly pollinating a Heart-leaved Alexander plant.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bill Dean. Used with permission.

Prairie Provinces, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a parasitic fly on yarrow.

Parasitic fly on yarrow.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bill Dean. Used with permission.

Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013 The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a soldier fly pollinating a Common Yarrow.

Soldier fly pollinating Common Yarrow.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A labelled drawing showing the parts of a bee fly.

Bee flies have many of the same parts that people do: a head with eyes, a chest, a belly and legs. Unlike people, flies have sense organs called antennae on their heads, two wings to enable it to fly and a special tongue that acts like a long straw called a proboscis. Flies also have six legs instead of two!

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Janet la France

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A worksheet illustrating the parts of bee fly that can by filled in using the word list.

Make copies of this diagram and distribute them to the students. Have them label the parts of a bee fly using the word list.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Janet La France

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


An illustration of the stages in a bee fly life cycle.

Bee flies have four stages in their life cycle. The eggs hatch into larvae. The larvae feed on the larvae of grasshopper or bees (prey). Once a larva has eaten its prey, it becomes a pupa. During this stage the larva transforms itself into an adult. The adults eat flower nectar. Females will lay their eggs where prey for the larvae are abundant.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Janet La France

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A worksheet illustrating the stages in a bee fly life cycle that can by filled in using the associated word list.

Make copies of this worksheet and distribute them to the students. Label the worksheet as a class, noting the four main life stages. Discuss what would happen to the bee fly if there were no flowers for it to feed on or prey for the larvae to eat.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Janet La France

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Adult flies fly from one flower to another to feed on nectar. Nectar provides the fly with nutrients and energy. As the fly feeds on the nectar, it touches the anthers of the flower with its bristly body. The tiny microscopic pollen grains stick to the bristles and are transferred to the stigma of the next flower the fly visits. When the fly visits the same type of flower and the pollen rubs off, the flower is pollinated. Some flies pollinate rare prairie plants like Western Silvery Aster.
Adult flies fly from one flower to another to feed on nectar. Nectar provides the fly with nutrients and energy. As the fly feeds on the nectar, it touches the anthers of the flower with its bristly body. The tiny microscopic pollen grains stick to the bristles and are transferred to the stigma of the next flower the fly visits. When the fly visits the same type of flower and the pollen rubs off, the flower is pollinated. Some flies pollinate rare prairie plants like Western Silvery Aster.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A photograph of a field of fly-pollinated wildflowers at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, Manitoba.

A field of fly-pollinated wildflowers at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, Manitoba.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a bee fly pollinating the rare Western Silvery Aster plant.

Bee fly pollinating the nationally rare Western Silvery Aster

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

Birds Hill Provincial Park, Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a Gaillardia flower.

Gaillardia

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of Canada Goldenrod flowers.

Canada Goldenrod

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Build an insect by carefully choosing body parts, size and defences. Try to pollinate ten flowers without getting attacked by predators!

Click on the link below to take you to the game!  http://www.prairiepollination.ca/

Build an insect by carefully choosing body parts, size and defences. Try to pollinate ten flowers without getting attacked by predators!

Click on the link below to take you to the game! 

http://www.prairiepollination.ca/

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Description:
Students play the role of pollinating flies. The goal of the relay is to have the “flies” search the field of wild flowers (bin of pompoms) with their sticky bristly fly bodies (the sticks) for their flower and bring the pollen grains (pompoms) to the correct flower on the other side of the room and pollinate it.

Method:
1. Print off one copy of each picture: Canada Goldenrod, Gaillardia, Western Silvery Aster, and the field of prairie wildflowers.
2. Obtain the following materials:
• 1 bin, large bowl or tray for the prairie
• 3 one-foot long dowels for the flies. Paint mixing sticks work great too.
• Self-sticking velcro dots or pieces to represent the bristly exoskeleton of the fly and on the flower pictures.
• Small craft pompoms in purple, yellow, red, green and white. Pieces of felt in these colours will work as well, however the pompoms have a similar shape to magnified pollen grains. The colours represent the following plants:
red – Gaillardia
purple – Western Silvery Aster
yellow – Canada Goldenrod
green – prairie grasses Read More

Description:
Students play the role of pollinating flies. The goal of the relay is to have the “flies” search the field of wild flowers (bin of pompoms) with their sticky bristly fly bodies (the sticks) for their flower and bring the pollen grains (pompoms) to the correct flower on the other side of the room and pollinate it.

Method:
1. Print off one copy of each picture: Canada Goldenrod, Gaillardia, Western Silvery Aster, and the field of prairie wildflowers.
2. Obtain the following materials:
• 1 bin, large bowl or tray for the prairie
• 3 one-foot long dowels for the flies. Paint mixing sticks work great too.
• Self-sticking velcro dots or pieces to represent the bristly exoskeleton of the fly and on the flower pictures.
• Small craft pompoms in purple, yellow, red, green and white. Pieces of felt in these colours will work as well, however the pompoms have a similar shape to magnified pollen grains. The colours represent the following plants:
red – Gaillardia
purple – Western Silvery Aster
yellow – Canada Goldenrod
green – prairie grasses
white – Western Prairie Fringed Orchid
3. Set up the relay materials by:
• Placing one Velcro dot on the end of each stick.
• Placing Velcro dots on each flower picture. Gauge the number of dots needed to ensure everyone has a turn. If you have a class of 24, place 8 dots on each flower, for example, so everyone gets a turn. Pin up, or place pictures on one end of the classroom.
• Putting all the pompoms or pieces of felt in a wide shallow bin or tray. Put the picture of the prairie wildflower field on or above the bin. The bin or tray represents the prairie where the flies will go in search of their flowers.
4. Divide the class into 3 teams. The teams are Team Aster (purple), Team Gaillardia (red) and Team Goldenrod (yellow).
5. Instruct the students in the rules of the relay. When the teacher yells “pollinate”, one student from each team goes to the bin and places their stick inside to capture a pollen grain, of their teams’ colour. Once they have captured a pollen grain they must transport it to their flower and transfer it onto the flower picture to successfully pollinate it. Once this task has been completed the student hands the stick to the next person on their team who tries to do the same thing.
6. Run the relay.
7. Decide who won the race. The first team to finish may or may not have been successful in pollinating their flower. The team that correctly transferred the most pollen grains of the right colour wins.

Summation:
8. Discuss what happened during the relay. Use situations like pompoms falling off; picking up another teams colour; picking up green grass pollen or white Western prairie fringed orchid pollen; or all the green and white left in the bin, as teachable moments:
• Grass is wind pollinated and does not attract flies. If grass pollen lands on a goldenrod, aster or gaillardia, it won’t result in pollination, and vice versa.
• The Western Prairie Fringed Orchid is only pollinated by Sphinx moths. What does it mean for a plant when only one insect can pollinate it, rather than many species of insects? The Western prairie fringed orchid is an endangered species; what role does pollination play in this species survival?
• Cross-pollinating plants such as Gaillardia and Canada Goldenrod, won’t result in pollination, only Gaillardia to Gaillardia and Canada Goldenrod to Canada Goldenrod will result in pollination and seed production.


© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
-identify the parts of a fly,
-identify the stages in the life cycle of a fly,
-learn about the role that flies play in pollinating plants.


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