What Do Hoverflies Eat? Are They Beneficial To Gardens?

No one likes hoverflies buzzing around them, but when you hear about their beneficial eating habits, you might change your mind. So what do hoverflies eat? Learn all about it!

Having a guard to protect your crops from destructive aphids is something that everyone who has ever faced these pests wants.

But, getting a species that not only control aphid populations but also promotes pollination is a straight jackpot.

Hoverflies are such insects that offer the dual benefit of hunting aphids and being excellent pollinators!

These benefits are directly linked to their eating habits, so let us know more about them.

What Do Hoverflies Eat
Threelined Hover Fly

What Do Hoverflies Eat?

Adult hoverflies mostly rely on flowering plants to fulfill their dietary requirements. These insects are active consumers of pollens and nectar.

If you have a garden full of bright flowers, you will notice hoverflies buzzing around them like drones.

They love to be around flowers and plants like wild carrots, sweet alyssum, dill, coriander, etc.

They are excellent pollinators since the pollen sticks to their hairy bodies and gets transferred to other parts of the garden.

At times you can also find flower flies (another name for hoverflies) feeding on decaying animal matter.

What Do Hoverfly Larvae Eat?

Hoverfly larvae are extremely small. You can only clearly see them with a 10x magnifying glass.

But do not let the small size fool you; these tiny larvae are experts at hunting and consuming garden pests like aphids, scale insects, thrips, mites, and some tiny caterpillars.

These slug-like larvae search the undersides of garden plants to locate aphids and consume them. They can wipe out large aphid colonies in a matter of days!

Hover Fly

How Do Hoverfly Larvae Eat Aphid Eggs?

Adult females prefer to lay eggs in host plants with significant aphid populations.

The larvae scour the undersides of the leaves to locate the tiny aphid eggs and consume them. They pierce the egg’s body to suck out the contents.

Thus, hoverfly larvae are great for erasing aphid infestations from your garden.

Where Do Hoverflies Live? Can You Get Them In Your Garden?

Hoverflies are found in different regions of the world. You can spot them on every continent except Antarctica.

As per some estimates, there are about 62 species in America alone! They are present in nearly all states.

Hoverflies prefer to stay in flower-abundant spaces like home gardens, forests, and bushvelds. You must note that hoverflies are not present in deserts.

Some hoverflies lay eggs in stagnant water sources as their larvae are aquatic.

The species that larvae hunt aphids and other soft-bodied insects prefer to be on land around forests and gardens.

How To Attract Hoverflies To Your Garden?

Hoverflies are extremely beneficial insects, and people prefer to have them near their gardens. Here are a few tips and tricks to attract common species of these insects to your garden:

Adult hoverflies are primarily dependent on flowers to fulfill their diets. Therefore having a wide range of fully bloomed flowers in the garden is a perfect tool to lure these insects.

Hornet Hoverfly

If there are no food sources for the larvae, the females won’t lay eggs in your garden. An aphid-infested space is an ideal spot for females to lay eggs.

The larvae will spend a significant part of the life cycle consuming these aphids and their eggs.

Avoid the use of chemical fertilizers in your gardens and agricultural crops. Hoverflies avoid areas with high chemical remains.

Which Flowers To Plant?

You can not buy hoverflies from the market. However, you can always buy flowering plants that these insects are fond of.

Here is a list of plants that can be instrumental in attracting hoverflies to your garden:

  • Queen Anne’s lace
  • Yarrow
  • Cornflowers
  • Oregano
  • Sweet alyssum
  • Garlic chives
  • Bachelor buttons
  • Buckwheat

These plants also attract aphids, which is, again, effective for hoverflies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hoverflies good for anything?

Hoverflies are excellent pollinators are they roam from flower to flower in search of nectar and pollens.
The hoverfly larva is one of the biggest predators of aphids.
These tiny worm-like larvae search the leaves to hunt down the aphids and their eggs. They can eradicate an entire aphid colony in a short time.

Do hoverflies sting people?

No hoverflies do not bite or sting people. These insects do not have a stinger and are harmless.
They might look similar to bees and wasps, but this helps to keep them safe from predators. The bright colors make them appear unappealing to predators.

Do hoverflies need water?

Some species of hoverfly larvae are aquatic in nature. They live and hunt in stagnant waters.
The ones that eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects stay in forests, home gardens, and other well-flowering spots.
They are also attracted to saline sweat-water on humans and are often licking it.

Why do hoverflies follow you?

Hoverflies will only follow you if you are sweating. These insects love the salts in human sweat and will land on humans to lick and drink the beads.
If you want to void them from buzzing around you, try to stay sweat-free. Use sweat absorbents to keep yourself dry.

Wrap Up

The eating habits of hoverflies make them one of the most beneficial insects to have in your garden.

The adult will feed nectar and pollen to promote pollination, and the larvae are experts in hunting down aphids.

Thus, they are an excellent source to increase pollination and promote natural pest control.

Make a note of the plants mentioned here that can be planted to lure these insects. Thank you for reading the article.

Reader Emails

Over the years, we have had a lot of letters from our readers enquiring about hoverflies, both because they look a bit like wasps and also because they are great for the garden. 

You can go through both kinds of letters below!

Letter 1 – Hover Fly

 

better picture of mysterious fly Can you help identify this fly? I have a fly in my home with bright yellow stripes across it’s back like a yellow jacket it also has a stinger attached to her rear end I took some pictures of it with the digital camera. Or at least I believe she is a fly, she has the head and wings of the other three house flies in the house just not the same body. Not the best but I can take more she’s just been sitting there looking at me all day in the exact same spot. I don’t know if this is of interest to you or not but three regular house flies that flew in with her, two as you can see from one of the pictures I have attached keep attacking her head. The other one I think was breeding with her. Can you help identify this one? For now since I am not sure what she is I’m just leaving her alone. Besides she’s been so patient with me trying to get a good picture of her shes just sat there and posed. Seems to be as fascinated with me as I am with her. If you need more pictures i can try and get more maybe use a chair if she is still here. When my husband got home last night he said he had seen one before but doesn’t know what it is. she’s back sitting in the exact same spot almost not moving again. I think that’s strange behavior for a fly. My husband also said they look like flies but he believes they are some sort of bee. I don’t think I told you where I live either it’s Riverside, CA. Also she is just a little over half the size to 3/4 the size of the house flies that will not leave her alone. Thanks! Diana Hi Diana, Your photo is of a Hover Fly from the Family Syrphidae. They are called Hover Flies because of the way they can hover in the air above flowers. They are sometimes called Flower Flies because they eat nectar from flowers. Their coloration which mimics bees and wasps is thought to be protective. Your fly is harmless and will not sting you.

Letter 2 – Hover Fly

 

What’s this bug
You have a fun site. Thank you. Here’s one that swarms my arborvitae bushes in the spring. Picture was taken on rose bush. Ridgecrest, 93555, is Upper Desert, 2300 ft elevation, 80 miles east of Bakersfield, CA. Whatsit? Please. Keep it fun.
Floyd



Hi Floyd,
We believe this is a Hover Fly in the genus Sericomyia, as evidenced by BugGuide. We would like to get Eric Eaton’s opinion on this.

Letter 3 – Hornet Hover Fly from UK

 

Large Wasp/Hornet type insect Location:  South Coast U.K September 1, 2010 7:49 am Hello, im from England on the south coast. Wasps are a common sight and i have occasionally seen large ones of approximately an inch or so. This was one of the biggest i have ever seen at just over an inch long, also it is very unusual looking with a red/brown and black striped pattern Large Red eyes and a bright yellow stripe down its head. The attached image is the best i could get before it flew away. Really would love to know what it is as i have looked around and it doesnt appear to be a native species. Thanks. Richard
Hornet Hover Fly
Hi Richard, This is not a wasp, but rather, a fly that mimics a stinging insect for protection.  It is a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, a group also known as Flower Flies, and owing to its large size and the location of the sighting, we thought it might be Volucella inanis, a species with no specific common name other than the generic Hover Fly.  We found an image similar to your photo posted to a website devoted to UK Insects but there is a note that a related species, Volucella zonaria is even larger.  Wikipedia has a page devoted to Volucella zonaria which is known as the Hornet Hover Fly, and there are photos on the BioImages Virtual Field-Guide UK website that match your specimen nicely.  UK Safari also has a nice photograph of the Hornet Hover Fly which is called the Belted Hoverfly. Hi. Thank you so much for your fast reply. Very interesting! I am of course familiar with hoverflys, very common, but i’ve honestly never (knowingly!) seen one anywhere near that size before! Thanks again.

Letter 4 – Hover Fly

 

Fly? Wasp? Location: Hawthorne, CA August 29, 2011 11:51 am Hi, I think this is a fly but haven’t yet seen antennae like this. Can you help? Sorry the pictures are a bit blurry. (It’s yet another curious bug to land on the Sea Holly we planted earlier this spring.) Signature: Thanks, Anna Carreon
Syrphid Fly
Goodness, Gracious Anna, You are ground zero for Syrphid Fly diversity.  Syrphid Flies in the family Syrphidae are commonly called Hover Flies or Flower Flies.  Both names are descriptive.  It looks like it might be in the genus Monoceromyia, as it shares so many physical traits with what the photographer calls the Mystery Mimic Fly, Monoceromyia floridensis, a Florida species that is pictured on BugGuide.
Flower Fly
Your Flower Fly really has interesting antennae.  It is also a magnificent wasp mimic with that thread waist.  We may wait until later to identify it to the species level, though we are pretty certain one very similar to it is already in our archives.  

Letter 5 – Flower Fly from Turkey

 

from Turkey Location: Turkey September 3, 2011 3:59 pm Hello, I need help identifying about this insect, It looks like a bee but I think It’s not. Because have only two wing. I saw it at 21.05.2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. I m sending It’s photo, Thanks for your help Signature: berrin
Flower Fly
Hi berrin, This is a Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae.  We do not have easy access to the species in Turkey, so we hope a family identification is sufficient for your needs. Thank you so much for your help Mr. Marlos, this identification is very useful for me. Best regards, berrin

Letter 6 – Hover Fly

 

What is this fly? Location: Venice, California October 21, 2011 11:26 pm I saw this in my yard in Venice, CA. Just wondering what it is. I have never seen anything like it before or since and have been unable to find it online. Thanks! Signature: Aaron H.
Hover Fly
Hi Aaron, Sadly, this lovely California Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae has no common name other than the general name attributed to the entire family.  The species is Eristalinus taeniops which you may verify on Bugguide.

Letter 7 – Hover Fly

 

Hover fly Location: Toledo, OH April 1, 2012 4:41 pm Wanted to share this bee fly with you; I haven’t seen this type around here before, just the little guys; This guy was probably 1.5cm long. I got as far as ’Helophilus’ in a species guess, but past that so many of them look near identical that I gave up in my exact species endeavor. Signature: Katy
Hover Fly
Hi Katy, Of the four species in the genus Helophilus that are pictured on BugGuide, Helophilus fasciatus is the one that has been reported in your area.  BugGuide also indicates that .  This photo from BugGuide looks very similar to your individual.

Letter 8 – Flower Fly: Helophilus fasciatus

 

Syrphid Fly? Location: North Andover, MA April 20, 2012 5:19 pm Hi Bugman, I was watching a variety of bees buzzing around apple blossoms when I came across this guy. It looks more like a fly than a bee and I think I found the correct identification on your site. I would like to know if my guess is correct. Thanks! Roberta Signature: Hikingmom
Flower Fly
Hi Roberta, You are correct that this is a Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, and many members of this family of harmless flies mimic stinging bees and wasps for protection.  We believe we have correctly identified your Flower Fly as Helophilus fasciatus on BugGuide.
Flower Fly
Thanks Daniel : ) I don’t know how you manage to read so many emails! Thanks for a great site! Roberta Thanks Roberta, We aren’t physically able to answer even a small percentage of the email requests we receive.  We cannot even read them all.  We try to choose the most interesting subject lines on days we are unable to respond to many requests.

Letter 9 – Flower Fly Switzerland

 

Subject: wasps Location: Uhweisen, Switzerland September 19, 2012 6:13 am Could you please tell me what the insect on the left is? Signature: JPB
Flower Fly
Hi again JPB, This is a lovely photo.  This is not a wasp.  It is a fly in the family Syrphidae, and the members of the family are frequently called Flower Flies or Hover Flies.  Mistaking it for a wasp is understandable as many members of the family mimic stinging insects like wasps and bees.  Here is information on the North American Flower Flies from BugGuide.

Letter 10 – Hover Fly

 

Subject: Yellow Jacket Location: Northern Mississippi September 23, 2013 12:57 pm Hello, I occasionally see these bee-like creatures flying on my back patio and they are not timid about coming near humans. They are about an inch long and their buzzing is rather loud. The closest bug I’ve been able to find that looks like these are Yellow Jacket Queens but the markings I’ve seen in photos are a little different. I live in northern Mississippi. This photo was taken on 9/23/2013. I’d like to know what type of bug I’m dealing with, they always like to show up too close for comfort when my 2-year old is outside playing and they make me nervous! Thank you Signature: Melissa
Hover Fly
Hover Fly
Dear Melissa, Despite its resemblance to stinging insects like a Yellow Jacket, this Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae will not sting nor bite your daughter.  It uses its protective mimicry to mask its own harmlessness.  Hover Flies are pollinators with predatory larvae that feed on Aphids and other insects.  This might be a Yellow Jacket Hover Fly, Milesia virginiensis, also known as the Good News Bee.  We hope we have convinced you that you should allow this Hover Fly to share your yard. Daniel, Thank you so much!  I had no idea such a fly existed, I’ll definitely welcome these guys now that I know they are beneficial for my garden and harmless to humans 🙂 Melissa Excellent.  We have succeeded in our mission to educate the public about the lower beasts and the interconnectivity of all life on our planet.

Letter 11 – Thick Headed Fly

 

Subject: Fly indentification please Location: Illinois, usa March 16, 2014 11:42 am Hello! My name is Shawn from Connecticut. I run an insect page on instagram and am quite careful when identifying insects. This here was sent to me to identify from Illinois. I first thought it was a type of fly or perhaps a mosquito, but I am leaning more towards fly. I’d greatly appreciate your insight. Thank you very much, Shawn. Signature: Shawn Dean (iamshawndean)
Fly on Flower
Fly on Flower
Dear Shawn, Our first thought was that this must be a Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae, but we were unable to locate a matching image on BugGuide.  We will attempt continued research. Karl identifies a Thick Headed Fly Hi Daniel and Shawn: This is a variety of Thick-headed Fly (Conopidae) in the subfamily Stylogastrinae and genus Stylogaster. There are only two species of Sylogaster in the USA, S. neglecta and S. biannulate. Stylogaster neglecta appears to be the closer match and the long ovipositor indicates that it is a female. The female uses this ovipositor to pierce the body of a host orthopteran (cockroach, cricket, grasshopper or katydid) where the deposited egg becomes an endoparasite. Regards. Karl Oh thank you so so very much Daniel. I greatly appreciate your efforts. I utilize the information on your page all the time and truly appreciate everyone who works so hard to bring us the most accurate information you can. Thank you again, Shawn Dean We have updated the posting with a correction identifying this as a Thick Headed Fly, Stylogaster neglecta.

Letter 12 – Hover Fly

 

Subject: Please help me identify this bug Location: Needham, Ma April 5, 2014 8:41 pm Dear Bugman, Could you please help me identify this bug, I thought it was a wasp, but someone commented that it is a hoverfly. I am very grateful if you have the time to help me. I am identifying it for my involvement in Project Noah. Sincerely, Signature: Cynthia West
Hover Fly
Hover Fly
Dear Cynthia, This is indeed a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, but mistaking it for a wasp is understandable as many Hover Fly species mimic stinging insects like wasps and flies.  We believe this might be Helophilus fasciatus based on photos posted to BugGuide.  Additionally it is a species that appears early in the spring.   Was your photo really taken this spring?  We thought it might be too early to have flowers blooming this spring as the winter was so severe. Hi Daniel, Thanks for your quick response! I appreciate it very much. The photo was taken last fall, October 2013 in Massachusetts. I had never heard of a Hover fly before so I guess I have learned something new and exciting! I can now rename it a Hover fly on my Project Noah page. I hope you have a great rest of the weekend! Cynthia

Letter 13 – Hover Fly

 

Subject: Bee fly or Bee Location: Walker, Michigan June 6, 2014 8:05 am Hi Bugman, Friend of mine found this on a tool this morning, thought it was a bee or wasp of some sort. It was near dead so I examined it and deduced that it was a fly masquerading as a stinging insect. I am willing to be wrong, but what do you know? Due to the lack of antennae and it only having two wings I figured I was right on, but let me know please. I also examined your specimens under bee flies on the site and did not find this particular one. A couple of nice pictures to add to your menagerie. Signature: Drew
Hover Fly
Hover Fly
Dear Drew, You are correct that this is a fly due to two wings, however, it is not lacking in antennae, but they are greatly more reduced in size than the antennae of the average bee or wasp.  This is actually a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, and in our opinion, it is Temnostoma alternans, based on the images posted to BugGuide.  We also feel that your Hover Fly is a much better mimic of a Yellow-Jacket than the Yellow-Jacket Hover Fly.
Hover Fly
Hover Fly
 

Letter 14 – Flower Fly from India

 

Subject: bee indentification Location: west bengal, india December 24, 2014 9:57 am i would love to know which bee it is. it looks like a mutated form of bee.regards. Signature: sreeradha seth
Flower Fly
Flower Fly
Dear Sreeradha Seth, This is not a bee, but rather a fly in the family Syrphidae that is mimicking a bee.  Commonly called Flower Flies or Hover Flies, members of the family Syrphidae do not sting.  Your individual looks very similar to this Flower Fly from India we posted in the spring.  We were not successful with an identification to the species or genus level.
Flower Fly
Flower Fly
Thank you very much for identifying the bug. It was very helpful. Regards,Sreeradha Seth

Letter 15 – Hover Fly

 

Subject: a bee I can’t identify Location: San Diego, CA January 5, 2015 4:34 pm while I was at work on a job site here in Chula Vista, CA (San Diego county) my Co worker pulled up in his work van and I noticed what looked like a bee in the door crack. I really took notice when I was trying to see what kind of bee it was and it’s eyes were a metallic gold with black stripes. I got the best picture of it I could have. the pictures doesn’t capture the metallic of they eyes but you can see how they are striped. I Googled like crazy looking for this insect and started to think I found a new bee. please help me identify this as I have never seen anything like it before. thanks Signature: Miguel
Hover Fly
Hover Fly
Hi Miguel, This is not a Bee.  It is a Fly in the family Syrphidae, and the members of the family are called Hover Flies or Flower Flies.  Many Hover Flies mimic bees and wasps as a means of protection.  Masquerading as a stinging insect is beneficial for the harmless fly.  We believe your Hover Fly is Eristalinus taeniops, a species that is “A widespread Old World species introduced to California” according to BugGuide. Thank you so much for clarifying this I kinda had a feeling it might have been a fly because when I poke it with a stick it really didn’t move or seem aggressive.

Letter 16 – Hover Fly

 

Subject: Bee mimic Location: Dixon, CA May 6, 2016 3:39 pm Hello Mr. Bugman, I took this attached photo a couple days ago and thought you might like it. This particular critter was hanging out on a crape myrtle leaf in my backyard. I found its wings to be quite pretty! Happy Adventures! Signature: Eric
Hover Fly
Hover Fly
Dear Eric, Many Hover Flies or Flower Flies in the family Syrphidae mimic wasps and bees for protection.  The flies are perfectly harmless, but they benefit from mimicking stinging insects.  We believe your Hover Fly may be in the genus Syrphus based on images posted to BugGuide.

Letter 17 – Great Pied HoverFly from the UK

 

Subject: Fly Location: My home in West Yorkshire UK August 19, 2016 8:24 am I found this fly in the house and only after “disposing” of it did I notice the white band around it’s body and the wing markings.. I’ve looked in my small book but found no record of it. I’m assuming it’s not a rarity but just wondered if you guys knew the species. Thanks Signature: Joe Lyman
Hover Fly
Great Pied HoverFly
Dear Joe, This is a Hover Fly, , which we identified on British Hoverflies.  According to Nature Spot:  “Sometimes called the Pellucid Hoverfly, this is one of the largest flies in Britain. It has a striking ivory-white band across its middle and large dark spots on its wings.”  Nature Spot also states:  “Its larvae live in the nests of social wasps and bumblebees, eating waste products and the bee larvae.”  According to UK Safari:  “The Pellucid Hoverfly can be found in most wooded areas in the UK.  It’s shape and size are very bumblebee-like.  The name ‘pellucid’ literally means translucently clear, and if you catch this hoverfly in a certain light you can see right through its middle.  The other popular common name for this hoverfly is the ‘Great Pied Hoverfly’ on account of its black and white colouring. ”  According to Opal Westmidlands:  “V. pellucens is by far the most common species of the genus and widely distributed across the UK.”
Great Pied Hoverfly
Great Pied Hoverfly
Wow… Cheers for a comprehensive identification.. Thanks and regards Joe

Letter 18 – Hornet Hoverfly from the UK

 

Subject: Bee / wasp id Location: North Devon September 9, 2016 9:13 am Can you please tell me what this bee / wasp is Signature: Any way
Hornet Hoverfly
Hornet Hoverfly
This is a Hornet Hoverfly, Volucella zonaria, and according to the South West Grid for Learning Trust:  “This species is one of the larger hoverflies. It is sometimes seen in the UK in the late summer and autumn feeding on the flowers of Ivy. Hoverflies often mimic species of wasp or in this case a hornet.”

Letter 19 – Hover Fly

 

Subject: Tiger Bee? Location: Hialeah Florida October 1, 2016 8:20 pm Oct. 1 I noted a bee that behaved differently from the usual honey bees I see. It spent a lot of time nectaring on a single lantana blossom, then flew only a few inches to the nearest blossom, and stayed on that one quite a while, too. When I looked through the zoom lens I saw that it was definitely not a honey bee- with much larger eyes, a white ‘nose’, and no ‘hair’ on the back, which was striped instead of solid color, and it did not seem to be picking up pollen. Is it perhaps some kind of leafcutter bee? It was very pretty and made me think of a tiger’s coloration. Signature: Curious in Florida
Hover Fly
Hover Fly
Dear Curious in Florida, This is not a Bee, but rather a Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, a group that contains many members that mimic stinging bees and wasps for protection.  We believe your individual is in the genus Palpada and according to BugGuide:  “Closely related to Eristalis but usually more colorful on the thorax and/or abdomen.”  While several species in the genus are found in Florida and look similar, we believe the closest visual match on BugGuide is Palpada vinetorum, and according to BugGuide:  “A robust syrphid, (typical of genus Palpada), yellowish-brown with gray bands on thorax. Legs reddish or yellowish, femora darker. Hind tibiae thick, arc-shaped. Wings slightly darkened.”
Hover Fly
Hover Fly
Thank you for satisfying my curiosity! After I sent the ID request I wondered if perhaps it was a fly pretending to be a bee (I now have a mental image of flies dressing up as bees for Halloween and going around with tiny sacks to collect nectar). It sure looks like the Palpada vinetorum in the BugGuide pics. You are amazing. :^)

Letter 20 – Hover Fly

 

Subject: Mystery bug on garage door Location: Fullerton, CA February 5, 2017 7:54 pm Please solve our big mystery. I ve tried going to several bug sites to identify this thing to no avail. Can you please step in? Signature: Greg Castro
Hover Fly
Dear Greg, We believe we have correctly identified your Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae as Fazia (Allograpta) micrura thanks to the images posted to the Natural History of Orange County, California page.  Many harmless members of the family mimic stinging bees and wasps as a defense mechanism against predators. Thank you so much for the speedy reply! Much appreciated!

Letter 21 – Flower Fly from Death Valley

 

Subject: death valley bee Location: Darwin Falls, west of Death Valley National Park, CA March 24, 2017 6:50 pm Can you identify this bee (or fly)? I think the flower it is on is a Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) bush located in the western side of Death Valley National Park, near the Panamint Resort area. Signature: Bonnie Borucki
Flower Fly
Dear Bonnie, This is a Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, and many members of the family mimic bees and wasps for protection.  Harmless insects benefit from being confused with stinging insects.  We imagine you were in Death Valley during the peak bloom.  We are jealous.

Letter 22 – Hover Fly

 

Subject: Bee-like fly Location: Southwest PA July 12, 2017 2:14 pm Please identify this bug. We just started seeing them around our house Signature: Sheesh
Hover Fly
Dear Sheesh, This identification is proving to be a challenge for us, but we believe we are on the right track.  We quickly eliminated the Beyonce Fly, which is a Horse Fly from Australia that has gotten much press lately, including on NBC News and Huffington Post.  The wing vein pattern seems to indicate this is a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae as indicated on Microscopy UK.  We found several Hover Flies on BugGuide with gold butts, including this BugGuide image of a Narcissus Bulb Fly, but there are no black markings on the wings, and the antennae are not plumose.  When we stumbled on the Bug of the Week site, we finally found a furry Hover Fly with feathery antennae, Volucella bombylans, and though this is a British site, we knew this genus is represented in North America, so we decided to research on BugGuide, and this is where things get confusing since BugGuide states:  “represented in our area by 3 spp., but the European V. bombylans does not occur in the New World” but all North American sightings are classified as “Species Volucella bombylans-complex.”  There are examples of British Volucella bombylans that are posted to Nature Spot and FlickR.  So, it is our conclusion that we have the genus correct, and this is either a member of the North American Volucella bombylans-complex or it is an introduced British Volucella bombylans. We hope to get a second opinion from Eric Eaton.  BugGuide also indicates that the genus is “under revision.”

Letter 23 – Great Pied Hoverfly from the UK

 

Subject: A Half Transparent Fly? Location: East Rounton, North Yorkshire, UK July 17, 2017 11:18 am Hello, Do you know what type of fly this is? I can’t find it on Google nor on your website. It’s abdomen was half transparent and half black. Signature: AG
Great Pied Hoverfly
Dear AG, Based on images posted to Insects of Scotland, we are confident that this is a Great Pied Hoverfly, Volucella pellucens.  The Insects of Scotland states:  “A very large shiny bumble bee-like  hoverfly with an unusual half black half white abdomen and black legs. The white stripe across its abdomen can be all white with just a hint of black in the middle … or the white can be dissected with a black line …. The wings are mainly clear, but each one has a dark patch on it. It lays its eggs inside the nests of wasps and bees where the larvae scavenge. “  It is also pictured on Nature Spot. Thanks for writing back Daniel. I’m very impressed with your findings and appreciate the help you gave to me. I learned something new today! Thanks again Andrew

Letter 24 – Hornet Hover Fly from UK

 

Subject: Insect Location: Nn84ue August 14, 2017 9:02 am What is this please Signature: Marion
Hornet Hover Fly
Dear Marion, We are guessing that Nn84ue is in Wellingborough, UK.  Based on this British Hoverflies image, we believe your Hover Fly is Volucella zonaria, commonly called  Hornet Hoverfly.

Letter 25 – Hover Fly

 

Subject:  Fly that looks like a bee? Geographic location of the bug:  Oklahoma City, OK Date: 09/09/2017 Time: 05:31 PM EDT Found this little dude stealing salt off my leg How you want your letter signed:  Zack
Hover Fly
Dear Zack, This is a Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae, and many perfectly harmless members of this family have shapes and coloration that mimic stinging wasps or bees.

Letter 26 – Hornet Hover Fly from the UK

 

Subject:  Bee or Wasp? Geographic location of the bug:  Clanfield, Waterlooville Date: 06/30/2018 Time: 06:02 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  We have no idea it this was a bee, wasp or a hybrid of both? Please help How you want your letter signed:  Ella
Hornet Hover Fly
Dear Ella, This is neither a Bee nor a Wasp.  It is a Fly, more specifically, a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae.  We believe it is Volucella zonaria based on images posted to NatureSpot where it states:  “This is a hornet mimic and is one of our largest and most spectacular hoverflies which can be recognised by its yellow and black banded abdomen.”  The site also states:  “This species became established in Britain in the 1940s and has very much a southerly distribution with most records coming from south of a line from the Severn Estuary to The Wash, however it seems to be expanding its range” and “It seems to be found most frequently in urban areas and even in cities, and also along the south coast.”  BugLife uses the common name Hornet Hoverfly and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust uses the common name Hornet Mimic Hoverfly.

Letter 27 – Hover Fly

 

Subject:  Huge flying bug Geographic location of the bug:  Tennessee Date: 11/02/2018 Time: 03:25 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  What the heck is this thing? My parents were on a bus trip to Tennessee and this huge thing flew by- the only noise was the beating of its wings which reminded them of a hummingbird’s wings because it hovered. How you want your letter signed:  tay2247
Hover Fly
Dear tay2247. This looks to us like a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, possibly a Yellow Jacket Hover Fly, commonly called a Good News Bee.  They are harmless. Thank you- I was leaning towards that- it just seemed bigger than what the descriptions said.

Letter 28 – Grass Crab Spider eats Hover Fly in South Africa

 

Subject:  Grass crab spider? Geographic location of the bug:  Wilderness, South Africa Date: 12/24/2018 Time: 02:02 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman:  Hi, I would love to know if this is A Grass Crab spider on my Egg Plant. And if is a dragonfly that it is eating? How you want your letter signed:  Herman Jungbauer-Rudman
Grass Crab Spider eats Flower Fly
Dear Herman, We concur with your identification of a Grass Crab Spider in the genus Oxytate which is pictured on Jungle Dragon where it indicates there are four species found in South Africa.  The prey is not a Dragonfly.  It is a True Fly and in our opinion, it appears to be a Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae.
Grass Crab Spider eats Flower Fly

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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9 thoughts on “What Do Hoverflies Eat? Are They Beneficial To Gardens?”

  1. I enjoy having Hover Flies in my garden, also. They help keep the aphids down on the tropocal milkweed I grow for the Monarch and Queen butterflies
    Hopefully, they cause no harm to the catterpillars.
    I also enjoy watching their interesting flight patterns, like a helicoptor.

    Reply
  2. I enjoy having Hover Flies in my garden, also. They help keep the aphids down on the tropocal milkweed I grow for the Monarch and Queen butterflies
    Hopefully, they cause no harm to the catterpillars.
    I also enjoy watching their interesting flight patterns, like a helicoptor.

    Reply
  3. We have all these hover flies, they are swarming us. What can we do…
    Do they bite, I smacked one it was filled with blood…

    Reply
  4. We have all these hover flies, they are swarming us. What can we do…
    Do they bite, I smacked one it was filled with blood…

    Reply
  5. Anna’s post here from Hawthorne, CA (which is just south of Inglewood, in the Los Angeles area…and not east of Fresno, as shown in the map above) is a conopid fly rather than a syrphid. The color pattern (in particular, the reddish and very narrowly-based “T” on the frons, and the pale facial grooves)…along with the location…indicate species Physocephala texana.

    Note that members of the syrphid tribe Cerioidini are often misidentified as members of the subfamily Conopinae of family Conopidae, and vice-versa. Also, Monoceromyia floridensis is endemic to Florida…so far out of range for CA.

    Reply
  6. Anna’s post here from Hawthorne, CA (which is just south of Inglewood, in the Los Angeles area…and not east of Fresno, as shown in the map above) is a conopid fly rather than a syrphid. The color pattern (in particular, the reddish and very narrowly-based “T” on the frons, and the pale facial grooves)…along with the location…indicate species Physocephala texana.

    Note that members of the syrphid tribe Cerioidini are often misidentified as members of the subfamily Conopinae of family Conopidae, and vice-versa. Also, Monoceromyia floridensis is endemic to Florida…so far out of range for CA.

    Reply

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