Taking over pollination amid honeybee shortage

'Worker flies' all the rage in Japan

A growing number of Japanese farms are using flies instead of honeybees to pollinate vegetables and fruits, as the supply of bees is in decline and flies have proven to be good pollinators.

In mid-March, flies were seen buzzing around pink flowers in a greenhouse in the city of Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture. Mango producer Takao Arimura said that he expected them to become "the saviors of the farm." He has been conducting an experimental cultivation of mangoes using flies for pollination for two years. Arimura previously used only honeybees, but was not happy with poor fruit production when bees' performance declined. He then learned about pollinating flies, namely the "Bee Fly" launched in 2012 by Japan Maggot Co., a venture firm based in the city of Okayama established by Okayama University's School of Medicine.

Bee Flies, named for their role as pollinators like honeybees, are a type of green bottle fly species, widely found in Japan. The company has the flies lay eggs in sealed devices, and raises them at its facility until they become pupae before shipping. Farms that purchase the flies let them emerge from pupae inside a greenhouse in which crop plants are grown for pollination.

According to mainichi.jp¸ a thousand flies are sold for 2,200 yen (about $20). So far, more than 500 farms that produce strawberries, mangoes and other crops have bought the flies.

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