Hoverflies are found across the globe, with an estimated 6,000 species described worldwide.
They are very useful in agriculture, with some emerging as model species for the biological control of aphids.
Flinders University Associate Professor Karin Nordström says hoverflies are “ecologically important alternative pollinators and provide an extremely valuable alternative to the world’s wavering bee populations”.
“The world’s bee and bumblebee populations are declining, though an estimated 80% of European crops are directly dependent on insects for pollination,” she says.
“Preserving and promoting wild pollinators is therefore crucial for sustainable agriculture.
“In addition to maintaining natural habitats and reducing pesticide use, an increased understanding of why and how wild pollinators utilise certain sources will allow us to propose efficient planting and maintenance strategies that maximise crop pollination.”
On Wednesday 19 July, Associate Professor Karin Nordström – Senior Lecturer in Anatomy and Histology at Flinders University – will deliver a free Flinders Investigators public lecture on ‘The visual world of hoverflies, and how to attract wild pollinators across continents’.
Flinders Investigators is a free public lecture series bringing the University’s world-leading research to the wider community.
The Hoverfly Vision research group is using hoverflies to understand how the nervous system codes visual information. A range of techniques are used, including electrophysiology of single neurons in the fly brain, quantitative behaviour, free flight experiments, and field site measurements.
The research is currently funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory, The Australian Research Council and Stiftelsen Olle Engkvist Byggmästare.
Associate Professor Nordström’s research group publishes extensively on hoverflies, predatory flies and other flying insects which provide optimum optical, neural and visualisation powers – in spite of their size.
This collaborative research with Uppsala University in Sweden will be used to help to inform aeronautical, defence and drone technologies, as well as ecology and biodiversity outcomes.
“Since insects are small, with size-constrained eyes and brains, they have evolved to optimise their optical, neural and behavioural target visualisation solutions,” Associate Professor Nordström says.
“Indeed, even if evolutionarily distant insects display different pursuit strategies, target neuron physiology is strikingly similar.
“Furthermore, the coarse spatial resolution of the insect compound eye might actually be beneficial when it comes to detection of moving targets.”
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