This is the hornet hoverfly Volucella zonaria – it is our largest and most spectacular species of hoverfly. I photographed this individual earlier in the week (before the rain came …) in the Walled Garden at Parke.
Hornet hoverflies lay their eggs in the nests of social wasps such as the German Wasp and the Hornet – the subsequent larvae are then scavengers on the detritus at the bottom of the nest holes. Adult hornet hoverflies look at first glance very similar to hornets and this mimicry helps them approach hornet nest and lay their eggs. The public shouldn’t worry about hornet hoverflies as they are harmless to us.
Hornet hoverflies first appeared in Britain in the 1940s – before that they were only known as migrants from the continent. Since then they have become quite common in and around London and have spread west and north. I see hornet hoverflies most years now in Devon. The best place to look for them is on Buddleja bushes in your garden! For some reason they are very associated with humans, living in close proximity to houses. Once the weather cheers up see if you can find one where you live.
Map courtesy of the National Biodiversity Network.