Country Corner - The harmless fly masquerading as a wasp

Hoverflies are everywhere during hot days in summer, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

By The Newsroom
Monday, 17th July 2017, 6:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:13 pm
The  Marmalade Fly has wasp-like markings.
The Marmalade Fly has wasp-like markings.

Hovering with absolute accuracy and control around flowers, they are one of the principal pollinators of many of our crops.

Furthermore, their larvae are voracious predators of greenfly, blackfly and other harmful aphids.

Add to those invaluable attributes the fact that hoverflies are completely harmless to humans and you have a win win situation.

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Of course, hoverflies do not look harmless.

Their stripes and colours are designed to fool predators into thinking they are wasps and bees.

Unfortunately, they also fool many humans, with the result that people are often needlessly afraid of these innocents.

I have even heard hoverflies described as baby wasps.

Worry not. They do not have stings, nests, colonies, tempers or any vices whatsoever.

In fact, for anyone tempted to take a closer look at insects, hoverflies are an ideal starting point.

They are a varied bunch, both in looks and lifestyle.

This one you will find easily. It is the very common Marmalade Fly, with its very distinctive combination of thick and thin stripes of yellow, black and white.

As with all nature study, once you know your first species, another will quickly follow.

Some are large, furry bumblebee mimics whose larvae live in the nests of bumbles and do the cleaning!

Others, like the very common Eristalis Tenax with its famous rat-tailed larvae, are plain brown honey bee lookalikes.

Those rat-tailed larvae are aquatic,living in stagnant water – even rain gathered in an old bucket.

You name it, if there is a niche, there is a hoverfly 
species to fill it!