Are hoverflies buzzing around your garden making you nervous? Don’t worry; here are nine easy ways to get rid of hover flies in your garden.
If you want to get rid of aphids without using any insecticides, hoverflies are one of your best bets.
The larvae of these insects are the mortal enemies of aphids and other garden pests.
But many species in this genera look similar to sweat bees, which gives them a lot of hate from people.
In this article, we will help you identify hoverflies from sweat bees and also tell you how to get rid of them if you really need to.
What Are Hoverflies?
Hoverflies belong to the insect family Syrphidae. These insects are commonly known as syrphid flies or flower flies. There are around 6,000 species of these insects in the family.
The first name comes from their habit of hovering around flowers (whose nectar and pollen their adults feed on).
They have long abdomens with yellow and black stripes, which give them a bee-like appearance.
However, you can easily identify them by the short antennae on their heads.
A healthy adult hoverfly can show an average growth of 1/4-3/4 inches depending on the nutrition they receive as a larva.
You can spot these bugs near a garden infested with aphids and weedy borders. They are particularly fond of flowers like wild mustard, coriander, and sweet alyssum.
Hoverfly larvae are one of the biggest predators of the garden pests like aphids and thrips, due to which these flies are categorized as beneficial insects.
Lifespan of Hoverflies
Hoverflies have a short lifespan; adults usually live only up to 12-30 days. However, some species of hoverflies can live longer.
For example, ‘Hammerschmidtia Ferruginea’ can live up to 55 days.
The mating season depends on the availability of nearby flowering plants and pollens for mating.
Usually, the life cycle is longer in winter, and in the summer, the cycle is comparatively shorter.
The female hoverflies can lay around 100 eggs or even more in their entire lifetime.
Types of Hoverflies
Different types of hoverflies are scattered well across the globe.
For example, the American hoverfly is more common in the region of North America.
The Eupeodes Americanus is common in Greenland, Central Florida, and the Mexican highlands.
The common hoverfly, on the other hand, is found mostly in the Australian regions.
Do Hoverflies Sting?
Hoverflies do not possess any stingers, and usually, they don’t pose any threat to mammals.
However, they are highly attracted to sweat beads on human skin. You can often spot the buzzing around you on a sweaty summer afternoon.
Due to this reason, and also their appearance, humans are often very weary of these flies.
Fortunately, they only stick around to lick the water and the salt in our sweat. These creatures are gentle and will not do any harm to humans or pets.
Hoverflies vs. Wasps
As mentioned above, hoverflies have distinct black and yellow lines on their bodies, which is why they often look like wasps and bees.
Because of this, people often run away from these insects.
However, hoverflies do not possess a stinger and will not bite you. The wasp-like appearance is to fool predators and keep them from attacking.
This form of copying the appearance, smell, or behaviors of other organisms is quite common in the insect world. It is termed Batesian mimicry.
The most significant difference between these insects and wasps is the shape of the head.
Hoverflies have spherical heads with no stingers, and wasps have unique heads with stingers attached.
Also, wasps have two pairs of wings, while hoverflies have only one.
Hoverflies vs Sweat Bees
These flies look somewhat similar to sweat bees as well.
But if you notice closely, you will observe a bunch of prominent differences between the two.
For starters, sweat bees have a metallic-colored thorax and head, while hoverflies have clear black and yellow lines on their bodies.
Also, the hoverflies can stay suspended in the air while flying, but the sweat bees cannot.
Most importantly, hoverflies do not possess stingers like bees and are harmless.
Are Hoverflies Beneficial to Your Garden?
As stated above, hoverfly larvae are one of the prime enemies of aphids. These insects are an excellent tool for natural pesticide control.
Having hoverflies lay eggs in your garden will certainly help get rid of aphids and other pest infestations.
Moreover, the adults are highly active around blooming flowers. They love to feed on pollen and nectar, which is why they are considered excellent pollinators.
Overall, hoverflies are highly beneficial insects to have in your yard. Moreover, they are gentle and not harmful to humans, which makes it even better to have them around.
Despite this, their appearance and Batesian mimicry often make them the subject of much scorn.
How to Get Rid of Hoverflies
Yes, hoverflies are excellent pollinators and great for controlling aphid populations, but having a bunch of these insects buzzing around you can be too much to handle.
While there is no need to kill the hoverflies since they are not harmful, there are other natural ways to get rid of them if you want.
Here are a few tips to keep these flies away from your home and yard.
Wait Them Out
As mentioned earlier, hoverflies do not live for more than a month. If you are sure they are not laying eggs in your garden, it is possible to just wait them out and let them die on their own.
Use a Fan
Investing in a small box fan is a wise move to get rid of these insects. Place the small fan near the garden where these flies usually appear.
The airflow from the fan will not allow these insects to fly near that region.
As a result, they will stop appearing near that particular area. You can also create a fan tunnel to maximize the results.
Make a Fly Repellent
Using natural fly repellents is a great way to drive the hoverflies away from your garden.
Natural repellents are much better than other chemical methods as they are chemical-free.
You can create one by cutting a lemon in half and inserting a clove in it. Once done, place repellent in spots where these flies swarm.
The citrusy smell will repel them.
You can create another natural repellent using apple cider vinegar and water.
Mix the vinegar with two parts water, and add some drops of peppermint oil, basil oil, and dishwashing soap.
Put this solution in a spray bottle, and sprinkle it on fly-infested areas. The pungent and strong smell will drive them away.
Remove Flowering Plants with Nectar and Pollen
Hoverflies are attracted to flowering plants as they provide prime spots for mating and pollen consumption.
If your garden is overly crowded with such plants, hoverflies will pay a regular visit.
Eliminate the extra ones from the garden to avoid overcrowding these insects in your garden.
If you do not want to get rid of the flowers from the garden, consider adding plants like lavender, basil, and mint near these flowers to repel the hoverflies.
Use a Fly Trap
If the natural remedies are not working, it is time to build a fly trap at home. You can make one using a simple fly tape.
A fly tape contains a fragrant piece of paper that attracts the flies to fall in a glue spread.
Once they land, the glue traps them. Hang this tape near hoverfly-infested areas to get the best results.
Keep Your Garden Free of Pests
As mentioned above, hoverflies are one of the biggest enemies of aphids.
These insects are attracted to aphid-infested areas.
Therefore, to avoid hoverflies, you must ensure your garden is safe from garden pests like aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
Build a DIY Hoverfly Trap
You can also make a sugar water trap by dissolving three teaspoons of sugar into the water.
Put this mixture in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap with a few holes across it. The flies will get attracted to the sugar solution and will try to get to the solution.
Once they reach the solution, the plastic cover will prevent them from coming out.
You can do the same using a mixture of vinegar and dishwashing liquid. Start by taking a bowl of vinegar and adding a few drops of dishwashing liquid.
Add the same plastic cover with holes, and you will get the same results.
Invest in a Bug Zapper
If you desperately want to get rid of these flies and none of the methods mentioned above are showing promising results, it is time to take drastic measures.
Go to a local supermarket and buy a bug zapper. These devices are great for killing and eliminating insects like hoverflies.
Place them near spots where the flies generally swarm. The device will emit a UV light that will lure the flies into falling on it.
As soon they land on the coils on the zapper, they will get electrocuted.
Be careful with the size of the zapper; do not purchase a very big one if the problem is not very big.
You might end up killing other beneficial flying insects in your garden, like lacewings.
As long as the natural ways are working, avoid using insecticides and other chemicals. These substances are not good for plants and soil fertility.
However, optimally using them will help you get rid of flies, aphids, and mealybugs.
Conduct thorough research before buying insecticide. This substance contains toxic elements that can be extremely harmful to kids and pets.
You can also talk to experts before going to a pet store and buying one for your garden.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you stop hoverflies?
Hoverflies are highly beneficial insects, but it can be tough to bear the sight of them buzzing around you. Here are a few hacks to keep these insects away from your homes and garden:
Use a fan
Remove extra flowering plants
Get rid of aphids from the garden
Use a bug zapper
Use fly trap
Make fly traps at home
Make natural fly repellent.
How long do hoverflies last?
Hoverflies have a short lifespan; the adult usually dies within 12-30 days.
But some species of hoverflies can live for a longer period compared to others. The ‘Hammerschmidtia Ferruginea’ is an excellent example of this.
They can live up to 55 days.
Therefore, if you find hoverflies near you, there is no need to take any drastic measures to eliminate them; They will disappear by Hoverflies are often seen falling on humans in an attempt to lick the sweat on our bodies. They like to drink salty, sweaty water.
If you are sweaty, these hoverflies will buzz around to have a taste.
Bathe regularly and use deodorant to mask the sweaty odor; this will keep the hoverflies from being attracted to you.in a few days.
Why are flies hovering on the patio?
Flies are instantly attracted to dirty and cramped spaces. If your patio is left uncleaned for a long time, it serves as an open ground for flies to come around and lay eggs.
Therefore, you must clean the patio daily and make sure there are no remains that will attract flies. Also, make sure your pets are not littering around your porch.
Why are hoverflies attracted to me?
Hoverflies are often seen falling on humans in an attempt to lick the sweat on our bodies. They like to drink salty, sweaty water.
If you are sweaty, these hoverflies will buzz around to have a taste.
Bathe regularly and use deodorant to mask the sweaty odor; this will keep the hoverflies from being attracted to you.
Hoverflies are extremely beneficial insects due to their pest-eliminating and pollinating abilities.
However, it is easy to wrongly identify them as wasps and bees.
We hope this article helped you to identify these insects better. Remember, they are entirely harmless, and there is no need to be scared of them.
If you still want to get rid of hoverflies in your garden, we have shown you several things that can be done without killing them off. Thank you for reading!
Hoverflies are quite an object of curiosity because of their appearance, similar to bees and wasps.
Over the years, our readers have often sent us pictures of these bugs, trying to identify which wasp it was and how to get rid of it!
Please go through some of these letters below.
Letter 1 – Unknown Blue Hover Fly
What is this?
I was playing around taking macro shots this one day in Sept and I came across this blue looking hoverfly. I have no idea what it is, first time I’ve seen this and I was curious to know what it was??
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
We cannot find an exact match on BugGuide, but we believe your Hover Fly looks similar to one pictured that is identified as being in the genus Melangyna. We hope one of our readers can provide a better match or identification. Eric Eaton wrote in with this: “Daniel: I don’t have anything to say about that one! I do wonder if the blue is an artifact of lighting, a symptom of a fungal infection, or something else abnormal….Glad you got the Thai ‘bycid ID. Eric”
Letter 2 – Unknown Hover Fly is Meromacrus acutus
Bug ID Please
June 13, 2010
I work at the Conservancy on Bald Head Island (a Barrier Island off the coast of NC) and I am an avid photographer. I am contemplating creating a field guide for the island so i’d love positive id’s on some of these bugs. I took these pictures this summer. I feel bad sending so many seperate questions so this one has three different bugs including a spider and some sort of stick bug.
Bald Head Island, NC
Your multiple letters with multiple identification requests each have arrived on the cusp of our preparations to leave the offices for a week to visit with family in Ohio. Alas, we are unable to comply with your numerous requests at this time. We are posting your photo of a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, though we haven’t the time right now for researching a conclusive identification. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to supply an answer. Since we will be away, we will not be answering any emails, but you are free to peruse our archives for your identification requests. You can also browse the Syrphidae images on BugGuide to try to identify this species. This angle of view may make identification difficult. A dorsal view is generally preferred, though some insects are more easily identified with a lateral view. The spider image attached to this email is a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaurina mira.
Letter 3 – Unidentified Flower Fly
Bee or Fly?
Location: Southeastern Florida, Palm Beach County
March 15, 2011 10:01 am
I was taking pictures of the blooms on an ornamental cactus, and this bug wouldn’t take no for an answer. It kept getting into the shots. It seemed interested in the pollen at the center of the blooms. Can you identify it for me? Specifically, what kind of Bee or Fly is it? Pics taken 3/13/2011.
While we haven’t the time to research the exact species, we can tell you that this is a Syrphid Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae. Many Syrphids mimic bees for protection. You may try to self identify you Flower Fly by browsing through the hundreds of images on BugGuide.
Thanks for the quick answer and the link. I think I found it, Syrphid Flies (Syrphidae) » Syrphinae » Toxomerini » Toxomerus » Toxomerus marginatus.
Thanks so much for taking the initiative on this ID after we provided you with a point of departure. It really does appear that your Syrphid might be Toxomerus marginatus, though this is a large and confusing family for us and we believe a dipterist might be needed to accurately confirm this ID. BugGuide has these interesting remarks : “Considered beneficial insects, because they are predatory on many plant pests. This article suggests that they and other syrphids are more efficient at pest control in sheltered sites. When the pupa is exposed to heat, the adults look very pale and orange, if they develop under cold conditions, they turn much darker, sometimes nearly completely black. (Comment by Martin Hauser)”
Letter 4 – What’s That Fly???? possibly Flower Fly
What’s that bug, lol?
Subject: What’s that bug, lol?
Location: Northeast Ms.
May 21, 2011 10:42 am
What a neat site! I am fascinated by insects, so I will be here often, lol! I found this bug in my house last night. I live in NE Ms.
After moving him/her outside, I took these photos. I thought it was a lightening bug, my husband thinks Wasp, and I have friends on FB that think it’s a Cicada. I don’t think it’s any of these. I figure this is a pretty basic insect that I should know, and feel rather dumb that I don’t, lol! I have been all over the internet looking at images and have had no luck identifying it so far.
Thank you for your time! 😉
Dear P Holland,
We are having a terrible time trying to identify this insect. Here is what we are certain of: It is a Fly. Beyond that, we suspect it is a Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae. The closest match we are able to locate on BugGuide is Monoceromyia floridensis, but sadly, the details of the antennae are not clearly visible in your photos. BugGuide indicates that species if found in Florida, but Mississippi isn’t that far from Florida. Perhaps it is a close relative. The positioning of the wings has allowed us to eliminate any of the Thick Headed Flies found on BugGuide which also have some similar looking species. It is evident that this fly is a wasp mimic because of the narrow waist and coloration. Many Flower Flies mimic bees. We hope one of our readers will write in to confirm or refute this identification.
Thank you for the quick reply!!! I had 2 more folks insist earlier today that it’s a wasp. Ha… they were wrong!!!!
Letter 5 – Flower Fly Carnage
Subject: Is this a wasp or a bee?
Location: North Carolina
July 1, 2014 5:33 am
What kind of wasp or bee is this?
Signature: Devan Bodie
This is neither a wasp nor a bee. It is a harmless and beneficial Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, a family that contains many species that mimic stinging insects as you can see on BugGuide. It appears in your image that this Flower Fly was recently squashed, and since they are harmless and beneficial, we are tagging this posting as Unnecessary Carnage.
Letter 6 – Correction: Horse Fly from Australia
Subject: horse fly
Location: Cairns Australia
January 10, 2016 4:11 pm
Hi. Could you please tell me what kind of horse fly this is.
I live in Cairns Australia next to the rainforest I’m used to the smaller black ones but not this..
Unfortunately i had to kill it as it was attacking my two little boys under three years of age!!
This is not a Horse Fly, commonly called a March Fly in Australia. We believe this is a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae. Hover Flies mimic stinging bees and wasps for protection, but they are in themselves perfectly harmless. We have not had any luck determining the species. We hope that should you encounter additional Hover Flies in the future, you will learn to recognize them and not kill them as they pose no threat to your family.
Many thanks on the info..
I do feel bad exterminating it now but now know for future reference!!!!
Correction: Horse Fly is Correct
There was an exchange of comments initiated by Christopher that resulted in a determination that this really was a Horse Fly like the one pictured on the Queensland Museum site.
Letter 7 – Threelined Hover Fly from New Zealand
Subject: Three Lined Hover fly
Location: Karori, Wellington, NZ
August 16, 2016 8:35 pm
Just photographed this fly inside my house, and looked up on the internet to find what it was. Will go and liberate it now that I know it is a “good” insect. Thought that you might like to see the photos.
Signature: Heuchan Hobbs
Thank you ever so much for sending your excellent images of a Threelined Hover Fly, Helophilus seelandicus, to our site, especially since you did not require an identification. We have but a single image of a Threelined Hover Fly in our archives, and it is a ventral view, which is not ideal for identification purposes. Your dorsal views are marvelous. According to Landcare Research: “Attracts attention because of its noisy flight Important pollinator of flowers Larvae are rat tailed maggots which live in liquid containing rotting plants or animals.” According to iNaturalist, it “is a native hoverfly of New Zealand. The name corresponds to the three black lines behind the insect’s head.” We are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award since you captured and released.
Thank you for your reply to my email re the Threelined Hover Fly.
I give you permission to use my photos, if you wish in your “What’s that bug” archives.
I have also included two extra images taken after I liberated the fly onto some retaining wall timber. I don’t know how long the fly stayed there, it was gone about 30 minutes after liberation. Didn’t stay “on watch”, was getting cold, late afternoon time.
Thanks again for your informative email,
Letter 8 – Virginia Flower Fly
Subject: Help with vespid ID
Geographic location of the bug: Morgantown West Virginia
Time: 07:11 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Had this insect in my home. Looks like a vespid of some kind. Can’t really match it to any photos we see online. Your help is appreciated
How you want your letter signed: Dana
This is not a Vespid nor any other type of Wasp. This is a Fly in the family Syrphidae, commonly called Flower Flies or Hover Flies. Many species in the family Syrphidae are effective mimics of stinging wasps and bees which helps to protect the harmless flies from predators who mistake them for a stinging creature. We will attempt a species identification for you if we have time. There are extensive archives on BugGuide should you decide to attempt your own research. We believe we have correctly identified it as a Virginia Flower Fly, Milesia virginiensis, on Insect Identification for the Casual Observer.
Wow! Thank you for the prompt reply and your expertise!
Your time is much appreciated!