Campus News

Postdoc shares the surprising distance a fly can travel

Entomology postdoctoral associate C. Scott Clem with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences spoke with Scientific American on a recent podcast to share some insight into a far-flying insect.

“Flies in general are the second most important group of pollinating insects. So, I think they deserve more credit than they often get,” said Clem.

Clem studies hoverflies, a type of fly that kind of looks like a bee disguises itself as such.

“They tend to be yellow and black colored, and they’re kind of different from other flies in that regard. They’re these little insects you often find visiting flowers or sometimes they’ll actually land on your skin seeking the salt on your skin,” he said.

Clem has been able to discover that these little flies might go a lot farther than we had even known before. Using isotopes, Clem found that the flies were traveling hundreds to thousands of miles from Canada down into the continental U.S.

“They get up into high altitude air currents. They’re able to surf on these winds basically, and it takes them these vast distances,” said Clem. “If they’re moving, they could be moving these ecological services across the continent on an annual basis.”