European hoverfly species information to be gathered in EU funded project

Globally, hoverflies constitute an extremely significant group of pollinators. In the next three years, key biodiversity data pertaining to all hoverfly species occurring in Europe will be compiled under a single website.

After bees and bumblebees, hoverflies constitute the most significant insect pollinator group in the world. Now, under the direction of the University of Helsinki’s Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus, the goal is to compile accurate taxonomic and ecological data of the more than 900 hoverfly species occurring in Europe, on a well-organised, open and easy-to-use European Commission hosted website. The web platform will constitute a robust knowledge base, and will serve both the broad public, and professionals in the field.

“In addition to their names and classification, the website will present the key identifying characteristics of each species, information on their ecology and distribution, as well as high-quality images, thanks to which closely related species can be distinguished from each another. All this is to be expected within the next three years,” says Gunilla Ståhls-Mäkelä, the project’s principal investigator at Luomus.

In the coming years, specialists from around Europe will gather in workshops at European Natural History Museums at regular intervals to verify hoverfly data and identifications, and in particular the data of the rare species held in several European entomological collections.

Collaboration with the biodiversity experts of the European Commission has commenced productively.

“As part of its biodiversity strategy, the European Union wishes to pay particular attention to, among other things, the status of insect pollinators. Sharing knowledge and facilitating access to information is one of the measures with which the EU strives to prevent the reduction in numbers of natural pollinators. Compiling data accumulated over decades and employing state-of-the-art imaging techniques for this purpose makes this work feel very meaningful,” says Aino Juslén, the project’s leader from the University of Helsinki’s Finnish Museum of Natural History.

In addition to researchers from the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus, participating in the three-year Taxo-Fly project are leading hoverfly specialists from the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Germany, as well as private organisations. In addition, a wide network of hoverfly specialists from across Europe will be consulted during the project. The work benefits from the ongoing IUCN led threat assessment of European hoverfly species and also of the compilation of a DNA barcode library.



Further information
Hoverflies – A diverse group of pollinators

There are more than 6,200 species of hoverflies known in the world.

After bees and bumblebees, hoverflies constitute the most significant insect pollinator group. Typically, fully grown individuals consume nectar and pollen from flowers and herbaceous plants, and they have been found to visit at least over 70% of all plants used for food production globally.

The larvae of many hoverfly species eat aphids and other plant pests, while the larvae of certain species use degradable organic matter for nutrition, making them part of nutrient cycles.

The appearance of different hoverfly species varies greatly; the largest species are hairy and have yellow stripes, emulating bumblebees and wasps, while the smallest resemble bees or other small species of the Hymenoptera order.