Seasonal Survey of horse flies by Dr Kirsten Williams

Horse flies are usually seen as a nuisance that bite, but they are also important vectors of disease. While most people are aware that Tsetse flies are responsible for spreading sleeping sickness, researchers have found that some species of horse fly are also able to transmit sleeping sickness and several other diseases. 

A project has been initiated by staff at the museum to investigate the seasonal distribution of horse flies in a coastal forest versus an Afromontane forest and the surrounding grasslands over a three-year period. This project will look at the seasonal variations of species over three years and will screen horse flies to determine what pathogens they may be carrying. It will also compare the two types of forest to determine if there is a difference in the species composition. Two field trips a year are planned to collect horse flies over the three-year period – one in early summer and one in later summer.  Four different trap types will be used to catch the horse flies – Manitoba, Ngu, horizontal and malaise traps – to determine which trap type is most efficient at catching these flies.

The results of this project will increase our knowledge about what diseases horse flies carry and are potentially spreading. This will assist in management plans to protect livestock. This project is funded by the National Research Foundation of South Africa with the principle investigators being Dr Kirstin Williams from the KZN Museum and Dr Loki Snyman from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. 

Photo credit: Mandisa Ndlovu

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Progress made on pollinating fly conservation by Dr John Midgley

While most people are well aware of the role bees play in pollination, the role of other insects is less appreciated. Many plants in South Africa are not pollinated by bees at all, but rather by a suite of flies. Flies have been noted as important pollinators in many fruits, including mango, avocado and bluberry, and they are the only pollinators of chocolate. On top of this, many plants in our natural environment rely on flies for successful pollination. These flies face a variety of threats, so in 2019 the DIPoDIP project was initated to promote conservation of these vital animals. The KZN Museum has two members of this project, Dr John Midgley who is a local partner and Dr Genevieve Theron, a Post-Doctoral fellow at the Museum.

The project is entering its fifth year and is up for renewal for another five years, so a meeting was held with various people who might have an interest in the project. This offered an opportunity for the project parners to share their results with these stakeholders, but also an opportunity for us to hear from them about needs and skills that can be incorporated into the next funding cycle.

The meeting included partners from the Belgian Developmen Cooperation, the AfricaMuseum, the KwaZulu-Natal Museum, The University of KwaZulu-Natal, Stellenbosch University and the South African National Biodiversity Institute and stakeholders from the National Museum (Bloemfontein), Albany Museum, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, SANParks, SANBI, the WWF, the Karkloof Conservancy, iNaturalist and Ground Truth. Despite the fact that the meeting was short, ther are already some positive results, with plans for Citizen Science projects being drawn up for the next round and the first set of ICUN Red List assessments being drawn up. When these assessments are published later this year, they will be the first assessments of flies for Africa, an important first step in ensuring that they are conserved. The meeting finished off with a demonstration on how to sample flies for local assessments.


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Fig 1: Dr Theron presenting to the meeting on the role of flies in pollination


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Fig 2: Participants at the first DIPoDIP stakeholders meeting


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Fig 3: Dr Midgley demonstrating how to set up a malaise trap to collect flies



#flies #diptera #pollinators #pollination


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