If you want to get rid of plant pests like aphids, hoverflies are an excellent natural option. But where do hoverflies live, and can you bring them to your garden? Let’s find out.
Hoverflies are known for their incredible capacity to eliminate garden pests and promote pollination.
Gardeners all over the world want these flies to reside in their gardens to enjoy these perks.
But to be able to attract these insects, you must know the ideal habitat of hoverflies.
Knowing will help you help create a close-to-ideal spot for these insects to live.
This article will give you all the necessary details about the ideal hoverfly habitat.
Where Do Hoverfly Live?
Hover flies are found in almost every corner of the world except for the deserts and the regions of Antarctica.
There are around 6,000 species of hover flies globally.
America is home to a wide range of hoverfly populations. There are 62 different species of hover flies found in America itself.
You can spot these flowerflies in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and more.
Adding to that, around 230 species have been spotted in the southern African region.
Flower flies love to be around flower-abundant spots; these insects rely on their regular flower visits to obtain pollen and nectar to feed themselves.
Since they are frequent visitors to flowers, adult hoverflies are considered excellent pollinators.
The hoverfly larvae, on the other hand, are experts in controlling aphid populations in your garden.
This is why they are considered beneficial insects at all stages of their lives.
What is Their Habitat?
Hoverflies can comfortably exist in a variety of habitats, but the ideal habitat depends on the species and its geographical location.
For example, there are some species of hoverflies whose larvae are aquatic and found in stagnant water sources.
The other species, whose primary food source in the larval stage is aphid colonies, live in open gardens, forests, and bushvelds.
You can find adult flowerflies buzzing a range of plants like:
- Queen Anne’s lace
- Sweet alyssum
- Garlic chives
- Bachelor buttons
The larvae can be found in host plants, where they scour the leaves to locate aphids and their eggs. These hoverfly larvae can wipe out big aphid colonies from your garden.
Also, we stated at the start of the section that the ideal habitat for various species of hoverflies depends on the geographical region.
For example, a study conducted in Athens states that wildflower availability and seasonal variations are the prime factors deciding the habitat preference for these insects.
What is The Lifecycle of a Hoverfly?
Hoverflies have a four-staged life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae, and imago (final stage of reaching maturity).
Adults do not live for long and spend most of their time mating.
These adults love spaces filled with flowers where they can consume pollen, nectar, and decayed plant matter.
The cycle starts when the male and female mate near the flowers. In rare cases, mating occurs in flight as well.
The males track the females and approach them from the back to initiate the process.
During this time, the female sometimes tries to kick the males off her to avoid courtship.
In some cases, they might even try to fly away from the male.
But when the process is finished, they can lay around 100 eggs. These eggs are placed in specific plants which offer a range of food options for the larvae.
The emerging larvae are maggot-like and legless. They are extremely tiny and can only be clearly seen with a 10x magnifying lens.
They inspect every part of the host plants and consume any aphids and their eggs available.
These larvae are fond of the honeydew from aphids, and they can track the aphid colonies from the sweet smell.
After a week of feeding, these larvae start pupating in the soil, and within a few days, they emerge as strong and healthy adults.
There are two cycles of mating and breeding. The length of the cycle depends significantly on the season.
The summer cycle is comparatively shorter than the winter one.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do hoverflies nest?
Hoverflies prefer to build their nests in trees or other appealing spots with plenty of food nearby.
The larvae need a good supply of aphids and other soft-bodied insects to be able to grow into strong adults.
Hoverflies are solitary species.
Here the females build individual nests, but during the foraging and migration sessions, you can see them swarming in numbers.
Where do hoverflies lay eggs?
Hoverflies lay eggs in plants with a significant aphid population. Aphids are the primary food source for larvae. They are experts at hunting them down.
Some hoverfly larvae are aquatic. Hence, the females lay eggs near water sources.
Stagnant water sources are the best for these larvae to survive and grow.
Do hoverflies live in nests?
Yes, hoverflies live in nests. They build these nests near decaying logs, abandoned tree holes, and more.
The females are always careful about the availability of food while selecting nest spots.
The larvae need to get enough nutrition during the growth stage to make it out as healthy adults. Aphids are the primary food source for these larvae.
How long does a hoverfly live?
Hoverflies do not live for long as adults. A healthy adult hoverfly can live up to a month.
During this time, they visit various flowers in search of pollens and nectar.
They are also considered excellent pollinators. The larvae take around a week to transition to a pupa. The female can lay up to 100 eggs in her lifetime.
Yes, hoverflies are highly beneficial insects, but there is more about them that will fascinate you.
The courtship details between the males and females of this species are quite unique.
We hope this article provided more fascinating details about these insects. Thank you for reading the piece.
Over the years, several of our readers have sent us requests to identify hoverflies and asked us for more details about these insects.
Do go through some of the letters below, and you might be surprised to find the wide variety of locations where these insects are found!
Letter 1 – Mexican Flower Fly
hi I am from mexico and I have faund many insects in my garden that I cant identify so if you can help me I will be thankfull.
Did you attach photos? They did not arrive. Where in Mexico?
well first i¨am fome mexico city the capital y will send you the fotos now.
Hi again Daniel,
This image is of a species of Flower Fly, Family Syrphidae. The adults, pictured in your photo, are often seen hovering around flowers. They have a wasplike appearance because of the yellow and black stripes. They are beneficial. Adults eat pollen and the larvae will help keep your aphid population in check by feeding upon them.
Letter 2 – Hoverfly from UK
What’s this bug? Hi, Can you identify what this hornet? is? I’m from the UK. Thanks for your help. Rob Hi Rob, This is not a hornet. It is a fly. More specifically, it is a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, tribe Volucellini and genus/species Volucella inanis, which we located after a bit of research. In the U.S. there is a space between the words hover and fly, but the UK website that identified your specimen does not include the space. In the US, since this is a true fly, the word fly is given autonomy in the common name to distinguish a true fly from other flying insects like butterflies, dragonflies or dobsonflies. Many Hover Flies, which are also called Flower Flies, mimic bees and wasps. This could be a protective mimicry when they are feeding since they cannot sting, but the insects they mimic can. Larvae of this fly are scavengers in bumble-bee or wasp nests.
Letter 3 – Not Flower Fly, but Bee Fly from India
Winged Beetle? April 1, 2010 Dear Bugman, Hi! I snapped this lovely fellow after a night of heavy rains in the Indian State of Assam. He was perched outside our hotel room on a bush. The eyes look fly-like so I thought it might be a fly, while the wings are jet black. Is it a beetle or a fly? Please help me identify it. Thanks. Royston Kaziranga, Assam, North-East India Dear Royston, This is most definitely a fly and not a beetle. We believe it is a Flower Fly or Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, but we are not certain. We will try to do additional research. We noticed that you sent us multiple identification requests, and we may not be able to address all of them because we have other letters to answer as well. We are also playing catch-up as we took a holiday yesterday to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Eric Eaton provides a Correction Daniel: This is actually some kind of bee fly in the family Bombyliidae. Great picture of a handsome insect! Eric
Letter 4 – Mating Hover Flies: Action Photos Nonpareil
Mating Hover Flies Mating Hover Flies Location: Northeast Florida June 23, 2011 3:36 pm I have been enjoying your website since finding it a few days ago, and I’ve also been enjoying the Bug Guide which I found through your site. Yesterday I was able to identify a Hover Fly, Toxomerus marginatus, in a photo I’d taken of this tiny bug perched on a flower. Today I went out to the garden and saw another little Hover Fly hovering in the air over the flowers. When I started taking pictures I realized that it was actually two mating Hover Flies! They appear to be Toxomerus marginatus also. I’m sending a couple of photos. They were mostly flying parallel to me but I did get one fuzzy photo of their backs. Signature: Karen Dear Karen, We need to start by exclaiming “WOW!!!” These are awesome action photographs. We especially love that he is taking her for a ride. We agree that these Hover Flies look like Toxomerus marginatus based on photos posted to BugGuide. Hi Daniel, Wow, thank you–I’m glad you liked the photos! Yes, it was fascinating to watch the male taking the female for a ride–he just carried her around as he hovered over the garden. Karen
Letter 5 – Hover Fly from England
Subject: Wasp like insect Location: North-east England July 5, 2013 4:59 am Came across this bizzare white wasp type insect earlier, I’ve never seen one before and was wondering what it was, I got a pretty good picture of it 🙂 Signature: Beth Hi Beth, This is a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, and members of the family are also commonly called Flower Flies. We have identified your individual as Volucella pellucens thanks to the Woodland and Hedgerow Hoverflies page and the Hoverflies of Adur page. We also have an awkward view in our own archives.
Letter 6 – Hover Fly from Switzerland
Subject: fake wasp Location: switzerland October 20, 2014 4:49 am At first, I thought this was a wasp but it looks like a fly. thx for your answer Signature: A.zanos Dear A.zanos, You are correct that this is a fly. Hover Flies or Flower Flies in the family Syrphidae often mimic stinging insects like bees and wasps, which affords the nonstinging flies some protection.
Letter 7 – Hover Fly from the UK
Subject: wasp or bee or something else?? Location: rochdale england June 26, 2015 6:39 am never seen one of these…cant find any pictures on the web!! what is it please?? Signature: gary b Dear Gary, This looks to us like some species of Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, and we discovered a British Hoverflies site. The closest match we could find on the site is a member of the genus Eristalis, but nothing looks exactly right. If you find a closer match, please let us know so we can correct the posting. Update: July 4, 2015 We received a comment that Volucella pellucens was a good match, and this image on the British Hoverflies site supports that possibility.
Letter 8 – Hover Fly from the UK
Subject: Bee bug??? Location: Hampshire, UK July 30, 2015 11:35 am Hi Mr Bugman. Any idea what this is? We found it in our garden in July, we’ve shown lots of people and no one knows. Please help. Signature: mia Dear Mia, Your fly looks like the Hover Fly, Volucella inanis, that is pictured on the Diptera Info site. Many harmless Hover Flies in the family Syrphidae mimic the markings on stinging Bees and Wasps for protection.
Letter 9 – Hoverfly from the UK
Subject: Warble Fly ? Or ? Location: Plymouth Devon UK August 10, 2015 12:21 pm Taken in Devon UK 10 August 2015 Signature: Jacko Dear Jacko, Your Hoverfly is Volucella inanis, and you can read more about it on the UK Diptera Index site. According to UK Safari: “These hoverflies resemble wasps for a very good reason. The adults lay their eggs in wasp nests where the larvae feed on the larvae of the wasps. The scientific name ‘inanis‘ is Latin for ‘inane’ or ’empty’. Possibly a reference to the lack of stinging organ on this wasp-like insect.”
Letter 10 – Hover Fly from the UK
Subject: What’s this bug? Location: Kingswinford west midlands August 30, 2015 1:35 pm Hi I saw this bug this morning and couldn’t be sure what it is.it looks like a wasp but was a lot slower and had different wings be great to find out what it was. Signature: jtb Dear jtb, This is a Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae, and we believe it is Volucella inanis, a species picture on Diptera Index. We are greatly amused that one of the titles it landed near is “Lord of the Flies.”
Letter 11 – Hover Fly from Israel
Subject: What’s this bug? Location: Israel August 24, 2017 1:44 am Can you tell me what type of bug this is? Photographed in Israel, August (Summer), may be obvious but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. Any help appreciated Signature: Ari Dear Ari, This is a Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae, and many members of the family mimic stinging bees and wasps. Your individual is an effective mimic of Thread-Waisted Wasps. Though they look like stinging insects, Hover Flies are perfectly harmless, since they neither sting nor bite. Hover Flies are beneficial in the garden. Adults pollinate flowers and Syrphid larvae feed on Aphids.
Letter 12 – Hoverfly from Wales is The Footballer
Subject: Wasp or yellow jacket Geographic location of the bug: Caerphilly mid Glamorgan Date: 07/09/2018 Time: 01:49 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: Please can you identify this for me. Found this on a leaf over hanging my small pond, at first thought it was a bee( didn’t have glasses on in my defence). My grandson says it’s a yellow jacket wasp , but the only images I can find don’t have those two black lines. Thank you How you want your letter signed: Vivienne morgan Dear Vivienne, This is one gorgeous, beneficial Hover Fly in the family Syrphidae. Adults in the family are pollinaters and they are perfectly harmless, but they mimic stinging insects for protection. Larvae are beneficial predators that often feed on Aphids. We indentified your Hover Fly as a member of the genus Helophilus thanks to the British Hoverflies site. Additional research led us to Global Species where it states: “Helophilus pendulus is a European hoverfly. Its scientific name means ‘dangling marsh-lover’ (from Greek helo-, ‘marsh’, -phil, ‘love’, Latin pend-, ‘hang’). It is a very common species in Britain, where it is the commonest Helophilus species; it occurs as far north as the Shetland Islands. It is also found in Ireland.Also has the common name ‘Sun Fly’ although this is probably based on a mis-reading of helo- as helio-.” That description perfectly fits your own narrative, and we believe your Hover Fly is Helophilus pendulus. As an aside, New World English uses an adjective and a noun to distinguish Flies, including Horse Flies, House Flies, Bot Flies, Mydas Flies, Fruit Flies and Louse Flies as well as Hover Flies, from insects that are not true Flies and that incorporate the suffix “fly” onto a compound word like Butterfly, Dragonfly, Dobsonfly and countless others. We finally landed on Nature Spot where Old World versus New World naming conventions are tossed out because of the awesome common name Footballer because: “This hoverfly is sometimes called ‘The Footballer’ due to its stripy thorax. There are in fact several species with similar stripes which are difficult to tell apart. Another name is ‘The Sunfly’ due to its preference for bright sunny days. In this species the black on the hind tibia is restricted to the distal third and the mid tibia is all yellow.” Nature Spot also indicates “Around muddy puddles, wet ditches and ponds, but also in most sunny situations along roadsides, field margins, etc” and “Larvae have been found in farmyard drains, very wet manure, and very wet sawdust.”
Letter 13 – Hover Fly from Norway
Subject: Is this a fly or a wasp? Geographic location of the bug: Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway Date: 02/15/2019 Time: 07:19 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman: Hi, I took this picture a couple of years ago in my garden and I never was able to find a proper answer. I wonder if you maybe can give me a clue at least? The colors are very much like a wasp, but the shape doesn’t. From what I remember, it’s bigger than a normal fly. Cheers from Norway How you want your letter signed: Alberto Martinez Dear Alberto, This is a Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae, and many harmless members of the family benefit from mimicking stinging Bees or Wasps. Based on this Wikimedia posting, we believe Blomsterfluer is the common name for Hover Fly in Norway. Your individual looks very similar to Chrysotoxum arcuatum which is pictured on Miljolare.no. Very cool! Thank you very much for all the information! Regards from Norway Alberto Hi again Alberto, 21 years ago, Daniel traveled to Oslo and had an exhibition at UKS called Rudimentary Particles.
Letter 14 – Hover Fly from England
Subject: Black and gold wasp Geographic location of the bug: North west England Date: 05/09/2019 Time: 05:45 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: Please can you identify this insect? Very unusual but definitely real How you want your letter signed: L W Dear L W, This is not a Wasp. It is a Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae, and many of these harmless (don’t sting nor bite), beneficial pollinators effectively mimic stinging insects like Bees and Wasps. We believe your individual is a male (eyes close together) Epistrophe grossulariae which is pictured on the British Hoverflies site, though we cannot say for certain that species is correct.
Letter 15 – Hover Fly from Canada
Subject: bee? Geographic location of the bug: southwestern ontario Date: 06/09/2019 Time: 09:24 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: I’ve been trying to search what kind of bee this is?! it’s slightly larger than the european honeybee. i can’t find anything online. can you help me please? How you want your letter signed: heidi Dear Heidi, This is NOT a Bee. It is a Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae, and many members of the family mimic stinging Bees and Wasps to fool predators. There are some similar looking species in the genus Eristalis, and we believe, based on BugGuide images, that this is Eristalis obscura.
Letter 16 – Migrant Hover Fly from Ireland
Subject: This insect was in my garden Geographic location of the bug: North down Northern Ireland Date: 08/15/2021 Time: 12:28 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: Hi I’m usually quick good at figuring out the garden wildlife but couldn’t figure This one How you want your letter signed: With thanks Lianne Dear Lianne, We turned to NatureSpot to identify your female Migrant Hover Fly, Eupeodes corollae, and according to NatureSpot: “It is a common species, its numbers in Britain often boosted by migration.” Oh that’s so good thank you so much for the quick response. I’ll have a read up now Lianne Rea
Letter 17 – Hover Fly from UK
Subject: Wasp Geographic location of the bug: Paignton , Devon Date: 08/23/2021 Time: 07:49 AM EDT Your letter to the bugman: Cannot identify what it is How you want your letter signed: Eric newnham Dear Eric, This is not a wasp. It is a True Fly, more specifically a Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae. We have identified it as Volucella zonaria on Nature Spot 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” and “This species became established in Britain in the 1940s and until recently it had 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 is now quite frequently recorded further north.” It is also pictured on British Naturalists’ Association.
Letter 18 – Hover Fly from Southern California
Subject: Flying skinny bee Geographic location of the bug: Southern California Date: 07/16/2022 Time: 10:05 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: I saw this skinny bee on a flowering coriander/cilantro plant near our front door. Visiting flowers one by one just like a regular bee. I have noticed it the last week or so since the flowers started blooming. How you want your letter signed: Turtle Tagger Dear Turtle Tagger, This harmless pollinator is a Hover Fly or Flower Fly in the family Syrphidae and we identified it as Allograpta obliqua thanks to the Natural History of Orange County website. Many species in the family benefit from mimicking the appearance of stinging insects like wasps and bees.