Sun Fly


Helophilus pendulus – I have seen a couple of these hoverflies around the garden pond today, buzzing around, and almost like they are chasing one another before settling down on the plants, and then off they would go again, then settling on a rock this time … and off again with boundless energy. This is a male of the species, and the only shot I got before it was off again!


Sun Fly Helophilus pendulus male

© Peter Hillman ♦ 25th April 2020 ♦Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Hoverfly Larva

Hoverfly larva

This apparent small blob of semi-translucent jelly is a hoverfly larva. I discovered this one on my roses, and it loves aphids and should help to keep their numbers down.

I don’t know what species it is, but it is quite amazing to think that after consuming hundreds of aphids in this stage it will grow into an adult similar to what can be seen below. It is called the Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus).

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

May 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

Making The Most of The Fading Blossoms

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Early November and this hoverfly is making the most of the fading rose blooms.

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Photograph of Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) taken November 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens. Manual setting ISO 100. 1/200 sec. f/6.3. No flash, hand-held.

Chequered Hoverfly

Melanostoma scalare

Chequered Hoverfly (Melanostoma scalare)

A fairly small and slender black and bright yellow patterned hoverfly. Length 8 to 10mm.

The larvae are predators in leaf litter. The adults feed on nectar.

Seen April to November. Found mainly in grassy areas or along woodland rides. Abundant and widespread throughout the UK.

Photograph 0f Chequered Hoverfly (Melanostoma scalare) taken May 2014, local woodland ride , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Volucella bombylans

Volucella bombylans

This hoverfly looks remarkably like a bee, and exists in two different forms where var bomylans mimics the Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) and var plumata mimcis the White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum). It is distinguished from similar hoverflies by having a hairy body. Length 15mm.

Volucella bombylans

The larvae are scavengers of wasp nests and feed on debris and even the host’s own larvae.

Volucella bombylans

Seen May to August. Found in many habitats, including hedgerows and gardens. A widespread and common species.

Photographs 0f Volucella bombylans taken June 2012, local woodland margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Meligramma trianguliferum

Meligramma trianguliferum

A rather narrow hoverfly with a yellow face and distinctive yellow markings on the abdomen, two of them nearer the thorax are smaller than the others and almost triangular in shape. Length 9 to 12mm.

The terrestrial larvae feed on aphids, and the adults feed on nectar. The larvae are camouflaged to look like a bird dropping.

Seen April to September. Broadleaved woodland, hedgerows and scrub. The adults are often seen feeding on umbels or basking in the sun on vegetation on woodland margins, or even in gardens. Scarce but widely distributed in England, more frequent in the south, and scarcer further north.

Photograph 0f Meligramma trianguliferum taken May 2013, local woodland margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Thick-legged Hoverfly

Syritta pipiens

Thick-legged Hoverfly (Syritta pipiens)

For such a small and slender hoverfly it has very large rear femora. The males and females have slightly different patterning. Length 4 to 7mm.

The larvae feed on rotting material, such as compost and manure.

Seen April to November. Found in hedgerows and in gardens. A widespread and fairly abundant species across Britain.

Photograph 0f Thick-legged Hoverfly (Syritta pipiens) taken June 2014, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Breakfast, Wrapped And Ready To Go

garden-spider-araneus-diadematus-03

Early morning, the sun has risen beaming down autumn sunrays, and above the sound of twittering birds in the garden I hear a high-pitched buzzing … it may as well have been a scream …

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

I could not see the source of the sound at first, but then I saw this large Garden Spider dangling in its web, and the source of the high-pitched buzzing …

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

What appeared to be a hoverfly caught and being wrapped up tight in a silken package.

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)The buzzing ceased, the monstrous spider wrapping in a frenzy, but a carefully and calculated frenzy, spewing its fine silken wrap to fully encapsulate its paralysed prey.

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

When satisfied all was wrapped up good and tight, it carted its bound package up its finely woven web, to foliage where it could feed until full.

Photographs of Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), taken October 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

More Marmalade

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Photographs of Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus), taken July 2015, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Tapered Drone Fly

Eristalis pertinax

Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax)

Resembling a bee mimic to fool would-be predators just like the similar  Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax), but Eristalis pertinax has a more tapering abdomen (especially the male), has pale yellow  front and middle tarsi (feet), and lacks the dark facial stripe. Length 15mm.

Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax)

The adults are often seen hovering around flower heads in search of nectar on which they feed. The larvae live in stagnant water and are called ‘rat-tailed maggots’ because they have a siphon which can extend to about 5cm long which they use as a snorkel so they can breathe under water whilst feeding on decaying organic material. When fully grown, the larvae leave the water and find a sheltered, drier habitat to pupate. The pupae are reddish-brown in colour and retains the long tail which makes it resemble a small rodent.

Flies March to November. They are found in various habitats, including flowery meadows, hedgerows, woodland margins, and especially numerous in flower-rich gardens. A common and widespread species.

Photographs of Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax) taken April 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Meliscaeva auricollis

Meliscaeva auricollis

Meliscaeva auricollis

A small and slender species of hoverfly where its markings can be fairly variable depending on the temperature the larvae develop in. Spring generations tend to be darker, whilst later generations are lighter and more well-defined. The yellow elliptical markings on tergite 2 help to distinguish the species from those similar.  They can grow up to 9.5mm long.

The adults feed on nectar. The larvae feed on aphids off shrubs and trees.

Meliscaeva auricollis

Meliscaeva auricollis

Seen February to December. Found in wooded areas. Frequent and widespread in the south and the Midlands, scarcer elsewhere.

Meliscaeva auricollis

Photographs of Meliscaeva auricollis taken May and June 2014, front and rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Dead Head Fly

Myathropa florea

Dead Head Fly (Myathropa florea)

This hoverfly attempts to mimic a wasp and is fairly easy to identify with its bright yellow colour and distinctive dark markings, especially on the thorax which resembles a black skull or death mask. It can grow up to 15mm long.

Dead Head Fly (Myathropa florea)

The rat-tailed larvae live in rotten wood in water-filled holes in trees feeding on bacteria. The adults feed on nectar.

Dead Head Fly (Myathropa florea)

Seen May to October. Found mainly in wooded areas, the adults either sunning on vegetation or feeding on flowers. Abundant and widespread throughout the UK.

Photographs of Dead Head Fly (Myathropa florea), taken August 2016, local canal towpath, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

The Gardener’s Best Friend

Meligramma trianguliferum

I discovered this brightly coloured hoverfly larva on my sweet pea doing its duty and eating an aphid. This one is not very big in size, but they come in all manner of shapes, sizes, patterns and colours, depending on the species. One thing is that those species that eat aphids have a huge appetite for them, helping the gardener keep the pest aphids at bay.

Photograph  taken of hoverfly Meligramma trianguliferum larva in August 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.


Update: Thanks to Mick E Talbot at his fabulous blog ‘My Garden Diversity’, who has helped me identify this hoverfly larva as Meligramma trianguliferum. Below is the only photo of the adult I have, which was taken in 2013.

Meligramma trianguliferum

Beautiful Fly Likes To Chillax

This is the Hornet Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), which has a thing about resting on my foliage in bright sunshine. Or …

… resting and cleaning itself clinging to the back of one of my hanging baskets, sheltering from the rain.

To learn more about this relaxed fly please visit the Hornet Hoverfly page.

 

 

Long Hoverfly

Sphaerophoria scripta

It was late afternoon and the sun had retreated, but I noticed this lovely patterned hoverfly feeding on nectar on a shrub in my rear garden. Hoverflies have such beautiful and bright coloured markings, and are one of my favourite insects. Some people run from them because they look like wasps and bees and are frightened they may get a sting. Yet hoverflies are completely harmless, and they mimic wasps and bees for their own protection from predation. The larvae of these insects often eat aphids, so they are a good friend to have in the garden or the allotment.

The abdomen of the male of Sphaerophoria scripta is much longer than its wings, which is more apparent when it is at rest with its wings closed. The abdominal markings are usually four broad yellow bands, although this may vary. There is always a yellow stripe on each side of the thorax. Body length up to 22mm.

The adults are often seen hovering around flower heads in search of nectar on which they feed. The larvae feed on aphids.

Seen mainly July and August. Found on open grasslands, urban wasteland, parks and gardens. Common and widespread in England and Wales, less so further north.

Photographs taken August 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Eristalis arbustorum

A small drone fly with a pale dusted face and no central dark stripe. The abdomial markings may be variable. 10mm long.

The adults are often seen hovering around flower heads in search of nectar on which they feed. The larvae live in stagnant water and are called ‘rat-tailed maggots’ because they have a siphon which can extend to about 5cm long which they use as a snorkel so they can breathe under water whilst feeding on decaying organic material. When fully grown, the larvae leave the water and find a sheltered, drier habitat to pupate. The pupae are reddish-brown in colour and retains the long tail which makes it resemble a small rodent.

Seen most months of the year, but more active in June to August.They are found in various habitats, including flowery meadows, hedgerows, woodland margins, and in flower-rich gardens. A common and widespread species.

Photographs taken June 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Eupeodes corollae

I came across this black and yellow marked hoverfly as it was licking the surface of a leaf near a local pond. It was so intent on what it was doing it didn’t appear bothered by me at all as I closed in to get these photos of it. It can grow up to 11mm in length, and as a gardener’s friend the larvae feed on aphids.

It is one of Britain’s most common and widespread species of hoverfly. Found in meadows, verges, hedgerows and gardens.

Photographs taken July 2015, local pond, Staffordshire.

Marmalade Hoverfly

Episyrphus balteatus

A strikingly marked yellow and black striped hoverfly which I came across feeding on the nectar of a thistle on the edge of a local field. These adults grow up to 15mm long.

The terrestrial larvae feed on aphids, and the adults feed on nectar.

Seen March to November, and found almost anywhere, including hedgerows and gardens. One of the commonest and most widespread of Britain’s hoverflies, and can appear as migrants in huge swarms.

Photographs taken  July 2015, local field margin, Staffordshire.

Syrphus ribesii

I see this brightly coloured hoverfly most places, including in my gardens and in local hedgerows. A distinctive black and yellow banded hoverfly, with a yellow face and slender body. 16mm long. It maybe confused with Syrphus vitripennis.


There are three generations per year, and they overwinter as cold-tolerant larvae. The larvae are avid predators of aphids, whilst the adults feed on nectar and are very important pollinators.

Seen April to November, and found almost anywhere, including gardens. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken June 2010, May and June 2014,  and April 2015, Staffordshire.

Hoverfly Wash Day

Even insects have a sense of personal hygiene, and this Hornet Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) is no exception. It had settled on one of my climbing roses and was happily preening its long proboscis.

Making sure it doesn’t miss a bit, getting right to the tip …

Nice and spick and span …

And time to just chill out …

Photographs taken June 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.

A Regular Visitor

Since I have built my garden wildlife pond this colourful fly has become a regular visitor.

It is called the Sun Fly (Helophilus pendulus), and sometimes more than one visits at a time, buzzing around quite noisily, alighting on stones and vegetation by the pond. They buzz around each other, maybe male and female in a courtship dance? or maybe they are two males battling for territory?

Whatever they are doing, they are fascinating to observe.

Photographs taken May and June 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire.

Sun Fly

Helophilus pendulus

This is sometimes called the ‘Footballer’ due to its black and yellow striped thorax. The abdomen is distinctively black and yellow patterned, and the yellow face has a dark central stripe. The hind tibia is black in the distal third only. Length 13mm.  It maybe confused with other Helophilus species, but mainly Helophilus hybridus.

The larvae are commonly called ‘rat-tailed maggots, and are aquatic, living in rotting vegetation in muddy conditions at the sides of ditches and ponds, even in puddles. The adults feed on nectar.

It flies April to October. Found almost anywhere, including gardens. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken April and June 2014, and June 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Narcissus Bulb Fly

Merodon equestris

This bulbous hoverfly was feeding on nectar in my front garden. It looks remarkably like a bee, and has many colour forms which help it mimic different species of bumblebee. The legs are all black and have a prominant bulge on the underside of the hind femur. Length 12mm.

The larvae feed on the bulbs of flowering plants such as daffodils and bluebells. The adults feed on nectar and pollen

Seen April to September, and found in many habitats, including woodland, hedgerows, parks and gardens. A widespread and common species.

Photographs taken June 2014, front garden, Staffordshire.