A hoverfly feeding on nectar from a sunflower inflorescence.

Pollination Research in Trinity: Hoverflies in Farmland

As a first year PhD student at Trinity College Dublin, supervised by Professor Jane Stout, I’m studying hoverflies in agriculture, how they benefit the farmers, and how farmlands can benefit and threaten the hoverflies. This year, I’m focusing on predatory hoverflies (those with larvae that feed on aphids and protect crops) in oat fields.

Picture#1
Hoverfly larvae eating aphids on a dock leaf. Image credit: Sarah Gabel.

But it’s not just the larvae that are beneficial, but the adults too – feeding on pollen and nectar, and thus pollinating flowers in the process.

Though hoverflies are my focus, they aren’t the only pollinators and predators I’ve been seeing out in the field. There have been quite a few bees as well, pollinating flowers right alongside the hoverflies.

And there are a variety of aphid predators out there too, like spiders, parasitoid wasps, and ladybirds.

Picture#2
Spider peeking out from its funnel web. Image credit: Sarah Gabel.

Because of the important services of pollination and pest control that hoverflies offer farmers, I’m trying to identify some characteristics in and around the crops that might attract them to the fields. I’m paying particular attention to hedgerows, which provide flowers as food as well as shelter from wind and rain.

It’s been a wonderful field season so far, and it’s nice to see all the beneficial invertebrate activity out there keeping the oats and flowers happy and healthy.

Sarah Gabel (@SarahG10J) is a PhD student at Trinity supervised by Professor Jane Stout. She is studying how pesticides impact on hoverflies in agricultural landscapes. Sarah’s PhD is funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC).

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