Hornet Hoverfly

Volucella zonaria

Also called the ‘Belted Hoverfly’, this is Britain’s largest and most spectacular hoverfly, and is a actually a hornet mimic. It is very bodly marked with yellow-orange and black abdominal stripes, with a chestnut coloured scutellum and thorax. The wings have a toffee coloured suffusion. Similar to Volucella incanis, which is smaller, more yellow with a distinct dark vertical line on the abdomen. Body length 15 to 20mm.

The adults are often seen hovering around flower heads in search of nectar on which they feed. The larvae live as commensals (benefiting from the host without causing it harm) in nests of wasps of the genus Vespula. They scavenge debris in the bottom of the nest cavity.

It flies May to October, and it is found in a variety of sheltered flowery habitats, including parks and gardens. This was a very rare visitor to Britain up to the 1940s. In recent years, maybe due to climate change, it has become more common in southern England and it is still spreading northwards. The adults are migratory.

Photographs taken August 2015, on Spiraea in rear garden, Staffordshire.

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