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Flies as pollinators of melittophilous Salvia species (Lamiaceae)

Celep, Ferhat, Atalay, Zeynep, Dikmen, Fatih, Doğan, Musa, Classen-Bockhoff, Regıne
American journal of botany 2014 v.101 no.12 pp. 2148-2159
Bombus terrestris, Salvia, Tabanidae, birds, flowers, insects, morphometry, pollen, pollination, pollinators, stigma
• Premise of the study: Floral adaptation to a functional pollinator group does not necessarily mean close specialization to a few pollinator species. For the more than 950 species of Salvia, only bee and bird pollinations are known. Restriction to these pollinators is mainly due to the specific flower construction (lever mechanism). Nevertheless, it has been repeatedly suggested that Salvia flowers might also be pollinated by flies. Are flies able to handle the lever mechanism? Are they functionally equivalent pollinators? In this study, we compared and quantified pollen transfer by bees and flies to test whether flies are true pollinators in Salvia.• Methods: We identified pollinators using field observations and photos. Video documentation of the visitation rate and the site of pollen placement on the pollinator body, morphometric measurements, quantification of pollen placement, pollen load, handling time, and stigma contact ratio were analyzed.• Key results: Field investigations revealed that 19 insect species pollinated S. virgata and four pollinated S. verticillata, including 16 bee species from seven genera of the Apidae and three fly species from three genera of the Nemestrinidae and Tabanidae.• Conclusions: Flies have been found to be pollinators in primarily bee-pollinated Salvia species. This result demonstrates the potential of a given “melittoid” flower construction to broaden the range of pollinators to guarantee successful pollination and seed production. Though bees, particularly Bombus terrestris, were more efficient than flies, the study shows that flies significantly contribute to pollen transfer in Salvia.