Do Nearctic hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) engage in long-distance migration? An assessment of evidence and mechanisms

C. Scott Clem, Keith A. Hobson, Alexandra N. Harmon-Threatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Long-distance insect migration is poorly understood despite its tremendous ecological and economic importance. As a group, Nearctic hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae: Syrphinae), which are crucial pollinators as adults and biological control agents as larvae, are almost entirely unrecognized as migratory despite examples of highly migratory behavior among several Palearctic species. Here, we examined evidence and mechanisms of migration for four hover fly species (Allograpta obliqua, Eupeodes americanus, Syrphus rectus, and Syrphus ribesii) common throughout eastern North America using stable hydrogen isotope (δ2H) measurements of chitinous tissue, morphological assessments, abundance estimations, and cold-tolerance assays. Although further studies are needed, nonlocal isotopic values obtained from hover fly specimens collected in central Illinois support the existence of long-distance fall migratory behavior in Eu. americanus, and to a lesser extent S. ribesii and S. rectus. Elevated abundance of Eu. americanus during the expected autumn migratory period further supports the existence of such behavior. Moreover, high phenotypic plasticity of morphology associated with dispersal coupled with significant differences between local and nonlocal specimens suggest that Eu. americanus exhibits a unique suite of morphological traits that decrease costs associated with long-distance flight. Finally, compared with the ostensibly nonmigratory A. obliqua, Eu. americanus was less cold tolerant, a factor that may be associated with migratory behavior. Collectively, our findings imply that fall migration occurs in Nearctic hover flies, but we consider the methodological limitations of our study in addition to potential ecological and economic consequences of these novel findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEcological Monographs
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Syrphidae
  • cold tolerance
  • deuterium
  • hover fly
  • insect migration
  • morphometrics
  • stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Do Nearctic hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) engage in long-distance migration? An assessment of evidence and mechanisms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this