Family Syrphidae: The Hoverflies

These often colourful flies which belong to the insect order Diptera, which is the ‘true flies’, are sometimes mistaken for bees or wasps, which some of them cleverly mimic. Yet these are the friendly flies, not only because they are excellent pollinators, but because some species have larvae that feed on pests like aphids. Other species of larvae live in the nests of social wasps and bees, and also ants, feeding on detritus and sometimes the host’s larvae itself, whilst other species are aquatic and live underwater in pools or ponds.

There are around 280 species of hoverfly in the British isles, and 6,000 worldwide. Hoverflies belong to the family Syrphidae, and they are also referred to as syrphid flies or flower flies.

Below species have been arranged in their tribes for ease of use.

Tribe Volucellini

Volucella bombylans
Bumblebee Hoverfly
(Volucella bombylans)
Pellucid Fly Volucella pellucens
Pellucid Hoverfly
(Volucella pellucens)
Volucella inanis
Lesser Hornet Hoverfly
(Volucella inanis)
Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria
Hornet Hoverfly
(Volucella zonaria)

Tribe Bacchini

Chequered Hoverfly Melanostoma scalare
Chequered Hoverfly
(Melanostoma scalare)
White-footed Hoverfly Platycheirus albimanus female
White-footed Hoverfly
(Platycheirus albimanus)

Tribe Syrphini

Epistrophe eligans
Epistrophe eligans
Meligramma trianguliferum
Meligramma trianguliferum
Pied Hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri
Pied Hoverfly
(Scaeva pyrastri)
Meliscaeva auricollis
Meliscaeva auricollis
Syrphus ribesii
Syrphus ribesii
Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)
Marmalade Hoverfly
(Episyrphus balteatus)
Eupeodes corollae
Eupeodes corollae
Long Hoverfly (Sphaerophoria scripta) female
Long Hoverfly (Sphaerophoria scripta)

Tribe Cheilosiini

Cheilosia albitarsis
Cheilosia albitarsis

Tribe Eristalini

Drone Fly Eristalis tenax
Drone Fly
(Eristalis tenax)
Dead Head Fly (Myathropa florea)
Dead Head Fly
(Myathropa florea)
Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax)
Tapered Drone Fly
(Eristalis pertinax)
Sun Fly (Helophilus pendulus)
Sun Fly
(Helophilus pendulus)
Eristalis arbustorum
Eristalis arbustorum

Tribe Merodontini

Narcissus Bulb Fly (Merodon equestris)
Narcissus Bulb Fly
(Merodon equestris)

Tribe Xylotini

Thick-legged Hoverfly (Syritta pipiens)
Thick-legged Hoverfly
(Syritta pipiens)

Hoverfly Larvae

Meligramma trianguliferum hoverfly Larva Eating Aphid
Meligramma trianguliferum
Rat-tailed Maggot Sn Fly (Helophilus pendulus)
Sun Fly
(Helophilus pendulus)
Melangyna cincta larva
Melangyna cincta

Unidentified Hoverfly Larvae

For further reference and with help and thanks for confirming identifcation of some of the more challenging species see the links below.

Hoverfly Recording Scheme – The hoverflies (Diptera, Syrphidae) are a family of attractive and familiar flies that we all see visiting flowers.

Facebook UK Hoverflies Group – UK Hoverflies is a recording group focusing on Hoverflies sighted in the United Kingdom.The group is affiliated with the UK Hoverfly Recording Scheme for the recording and identification of Hoverflies seen in the UK

Facebook UK Hoverflies Larval Group – UK Hoverflies Larval group focuses on UK hoverfly larvae and matters relating to them.

iRecord – iRecord is a website for sharing wildlife observations, including associated photos – you can register quickly and for free. Once you’ve registered, you can add your own biological records for other to see, and you can see what has been recorded by others. The goal of iRecord is to make it easier for wildlife sightings to be collated, checked by experts and made available to support research and decision-making at local and national levels.

NBN Atlas – The NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas is an online tool that provides a platform to engage, educate and inform people about the natural world. It will help improve biodiversity knowledge, open up research possibilities and change the way environmental management is carried out in the UK.

A very useful publication Britain’s Hoverflies is an invaluable resource which covers 165 species and the 70 British genera.