, Volume 96, Issue 2, pp 195–200 | Cite as

Hesitation behaviour of hoverflies Sphaerophoria spp. to avoid ambush by crab spiders

  • Tomoyuki YokoiEmail author
  • Kenji Fujisaki
Original Paper


Pollinators possess several antipredator adaptations that minimise predation risk during foraging. In addition to morphological adaptations, hoverflies might have behavioural antipredator adaptations. We conducted three field experiments to investigate whether the “hesitation behaviour” of hoverflies Sphaerophoria spp., moving backwards and forwards in front of a flower, is effective in avoiding ambush predators on flowers. First, we compared the behaviour of different flower visitors, including several bees and other hoverflies, with Sphaerophoria spp. behaviour. Only Sphaerophoria spp. exhibited the hesitation behaviour in front of flowers. The flight behaviour was observed more frequently before landing on flowers than on leaves. Second, we investigated rejection by Sphaerophoria spp. to artificially placed corpses of the crab spider Thomisus labefactus. The rejection rate of flowers with a crab spider placed on or under it was significantly higher than that of non-treated flowers. Moreover, the presence of a spider on the flower decreased the number of hesitation displays, compared with non-treated flowers. Finally, to determine whether hesitation behaviour could be a consequence of floral assessment, we investigated hoverfly rejection of previously foraged flowers. Sphaerophoria spp. did not reject flowers that had been visited by the same individual or conspecifics within 3 min. We suggest that hesitation behaviour may be adaptive, enabling assessment of predation risk and hence avoiding ambush predators on flowers.


Antipredator strategy Behavioural adaptation Floral assessment Predation risk Syrphidae 



We are grateful to D. Goulson, University of Stirling, for his careful proofreading of the manuscript. We thank P. J. Perez-Goodwyn and members of the Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Kyoto University, for helpful comments on and critiques of an early draft of the manuscript. We are also grateful to I. Kandori and T. Kurosaki, Kinki University, for valuable advice. This study was partly supported by a Grant-in-Aid for the 21st century COE program for Innovative Food and Environmental Studies Pioneered by Entomomimetic Sciences from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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