In Japan, orchid suppliers are getting worried over seed-eating flies that could potentially harm the production of the different species of the plant. Japanese researchers have seen that the problem has been causing long-term concerns all over Japan, causing some species to be unable to reproduce through seeds.
Researchers and orchid suppliers alike would agree that orchids are considered as one of the most diverse flowering plants. It has more than 20,000 species currently classified. Its unique shape has attracted so many people in the past, so much so that it has led to overharvesting. Overharvesting, together with the destruction of its natural habitat, has caused the Ministry of the Environment to declare more than 70% of the native orchid species in Japan to be endangered.
Why Seeds Matter
Considering the diversity of the species of this group, it is important that the plants are able to reproduce through seeds instead of cloning. Seeds can help pass on favourable traits to the next generation, while cloning may not.
The importance of seeds in the reproduction process of the orchids mean that researchers must identify which insects help in the pollination process, and which parasites hinder the reproduction of the orchids through seeds. The researchers found out that a seed-feeding fly called the Japanagromyza tokunagai was responsible for the destruction of the seeds of different species of orchids.
The J. tokunagai lays its eggs in the young orchid fruit, where the young insects grow up by eating the seeds inside. They then turn into pupae and make holes in the fruits so that they could come out once they have fully developed into their winged forms. The problem is that the fruits may seem healthy from the outside, and the growers may not notice the damage until they look inside. The damages caused by seed-feeding flies has been known since the 1980s, but due to how difficult it is to monitor the damages, researchers still have no concrete figures yet as to how grave the impact has been. Research has shown that the fly could damage up to 95% of the sample population used in the study.