Hover flies are efficient pollinators of oilseed rape
Understanding the consequences of declining diversity and abundance of pollinators for crops and floral biodiversity is a major challenge for current conservation ecology. However, most studies on this issue focus on bees, while other invertebrate taxa are largely ignored. We investigated the pollination efficiency of the globally abundant hover fly Episyrphus balteatus on the common crop, oilseed rape (Brassica napus). The study was conducted over a period of 2 consecutive years by means of enclosure experiments at an agricultural site located in Central Hesse (Germany). E. balteatus significantly increased both seed set and yield. This effect was very constant in the 2 years, despite considerable interannual differences in total seed numbers and seed mass. It highlights the important role of hover flies as pollinators of arable crops under varying environmental conditions. In contrast to bees, the effect of E. balteatus was lower at high pollinator densities than at low pollinator densities. This suggests adverse effects of density-dependent factors on pollination efficiency at high densities. Thus, models ignoring the modulating effect of biotic interactions by generally assuming a simple positive relationship between pollinator density and pollination efficiency might not apply to a vital component of the pollinator community.