Abstract The response of insects to monoculture plantations has mainly proceeded at the expense of natural forest areas, and is an outstanding and important issue in ecology and conservation biology, with pollination services declined around the world. In this study, species richness and distribution of hoverfly and wild bee communities were investigated in a changing tropical landscape in southern Yunnan, south-west China by Malaise traps periodically from 2008 to 2009. Species were recorded from the traditional land use types (natural forest, grassland, shrubland and rice field fallows), and from recently established rubber plantations of different ages. Hoverflies (total 53 species) were most common in young successional stages of vegetation, including rice field fallow and shrubland. Species richness was highest in rice field fallows and lowest in forests and showed a highly significant relationship with the number of forb species and ground vegetation cover. In contrast, the highest richness of wild bees (total 44 species) was recorded from the natural forest sites, which showed a discrete bee community composition compared to the remaining habitat types. There was no significant relationship between the bee species richness and the environmental variables, including the numbers of different plant life forms, coverage of canopy and ground vegetation, successional age of vegetation and land use type. At the landscape scale, open land use systems, including young rubber plantations, are assumed to increase the species richness of hoverflies; however, this might decrease wild bee diversity. The present land use change by rubber cultivation can be expected to have negative impacts on the native wild bee communities.