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Before Bees Evolved, Beetles & Flies Were Prime Pollinators

Making It Grow Minute

  Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Bees are the first animals that come to mind when we think of pollinators. But before bees evolved, beetles and flies were already moving pollen from male flowers to female flowers in order for fertilization to occur. Flies differ from bees in several aspects. First they have only one pair of true wings. The second pair has evolved into stabilizing structures called halters. Many flies mimic bees but if you look carefully you’ll easily notice that they have only one pair of functioning wings and when at rest their wings are still extended. Also, flies tend to have much shorter antennae than bees do and larger eyes. Bees are attracted to sweet smelling flowers but  Some plants attract fly pollinators with awful smells – like rotting flesh or dung! Some   of those are appropriately named – skunk cabbage is a good  example. 

Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.