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Oecologia. 2003 Mar;134(4):605-11. Epub 2003 Jan 25.

Field boundaries as barriers to movement of hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) in cultivated land.

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  • 1Ecology and Entomology Group, Division of Soi, Plant and Ecological Sciences l, P.O. Box 84, Lincoln University, New Zealand.


Field boundaries play an important role as refuges, food sources and corridors for invertebrates and vertebrates, and increasing farmland fragmentation impacts on these functions. However, hedgerows and other structures can also impede dispersal by flying insects. The current work uses the pollen of Phacelia tanacetifolia in hover fly guts as a marker to assess hover fly movement in farm landscapes. In the United Kingdom and New Zealand, Phacelia pollen was found in the guts of Ephisyrphus balteatus and Metasyrphus corollae (United Kingdom) and Melanostoma fasciatum (New Zealand) at distances up to 200 m from the source, when there were no barriers between the flowers and the traps used to catch the flies. The rate of decline over distance in the proportion of flies containing pollen was similar for the two countries. The extent to which four replicated field boundary types impeded hover fly movement was tested using post-and-wire fences, lines of poplars (Populus spp.) with gaps, dense poplars and controls (no potential barriers). Phacelia was planted on one side of each boundary, and along the centre of the control plots. The relative presence of the pollen in flies on both sides of the barriers showed that both types of poplar boundary restricted the movement of the flies, but the fence had no effect. In a separate experiment, gravid females of M. fasciatum were captured at a greater height on a shade-cloth fence than were non-gravid females and males. The implications of this work include the functioning and persistence of metapopulations and the influence of field boundaries on population recovery of beneficial invertebrates following pesticide-induced mortality. If field boundaries contribute to a temporal asynchrony between pest and natural enemy populations, this needs to be considered along with the well-established roles of boundaries as refugia for, and sources of, beneficial arthropods.

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