The Marmalade Hoverfly

The Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) is Britain’s most common hoverfly. Its larvae feed on aphids.

The patterning on the abdomen is very distinctive making this species easy to identify. However the orange colour can be bright or much darker – depending on the temperature in which the larvae were living. Orange hoverflies emanate from larvae in warm conditions and darker individuals from ones living in cooler environments.


Night and Day

A couple of new spring species emerge – one a day flying hoverfly and the other a night flying moth

This is Epistrophe eligans – a female – an early spring species which can often be found on blackthorn and hawthorn flowers – its numbers peak in May.

The is a Lunar Marbled Brown which is on the wing in April and May – its caterpillars feed on the leaves of Sessile and Pedunculate Oak

A day of four seasons and still wildlife flourishes

Amazing day’s weather in Exeter yesterday – it seemed like all four seasons had been wrapped into one day. Heavy rain, hail, 18 degree sunshine and wind. During the sunny bits it seemed like spring had arrived – I saw my first bee flies of the year along with hoverflies, a peacock butterflies and the solitary bee – the Hairy-footed Flower Bee.

This is the Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) – the most common of the bee flies in the UK
(it is a fly not a bee)

It has a very interesting life cycle which I have written about before – see here – it only flies when temperatures are above 17 degrees.This is the Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) – a hover fly which is mimicking a honey bee. Hoverflies cannot sting but work on the assumption that you think they can!

Another shot – feeding on a Lesser Celandine – note the single pair of wings and the large compound eyes which distinguish flies from bees

This is the first Solitary Bee of the year to emerge – Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) – this is a male – they emerge several weeks before the females – note the hairy feet!

Lovely yellow hairs on his face

If you have got a garden it is possible/probable that all of these species will be living in it – on a sunny day have a look  to see who you are sharing your garden with.


What’s in a name?

This brightly marked yellow and black hoverfly is called Helophilus pendulus. This animal is a male – its compound eyes do not join on the top of the head -if it were a female they wouldIt is a common species in Britain and I expect you have seen one in your travels or even in your garden even if you didn’t know what it was called. It is one of several species that look rather similar but it is the most common.

Helophilus pendulus 3
Helo – is from the Greek and means ‘marsh’ and philus again from Greek means liking – so a marsh liking species (its larvae live in wet places), ‘pendulus‘ means hanging or dangling. So a common English name might be the dangling marsh-liking hoverfly but it isn’t!

Helophilus pendulus 2
It is however often known as the ‘sunfly’, partly because, as in this series of photos, it likes sitting on leaves in direct sunlight. It might also be called the sunfly because helo has been mis-read as helio, the Greek for sun.

Helophilus pendulus 1
Perhaps my favourite name for this hover fly is ‘The Footballer’  on account of its stripy thorax! If you go for this name then I suspect you might support Cambridge United!

National Insect Week Day 2 – hoverflies

Hoverflies are one of my favourite groups of insects – many of them are easily identified by their colouration.

Marmalade hoverfly
I photographed this hoverfly in my garden yesterday – it is the Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus – a common species that will be in your neighbourhood too.

Episyrphus balteatusThe species has very distinctive markings and is unmistakable.

Hoverfly books

If you want to learn more about hoverflies there are two excellent books – the top one is British Hoverflies by Alan Stubbs and Steven Falk – it has excellent plates and keys to all the species. With a bit of practice it is not difficult to identify species. The lower book is Britain’s hoverflies by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris – published more recently – it is cheaper and relies on photographs of the species. Steven Falk also has an amazing Flickr site where has has photographed hundreds of species – here is the link to his hoverfly sections – again this is really helpful when trying to identify species.

There is also a national scheme where you can lodge your hoverfly records – see here Hoverfly Recording Scheme  – give this group a go – it will give you endless hours of fun,

The Large Narcissus Fly

So named as it can be a pest in commercial bulb fields as the larvae feed on daffodils. In my garden (and most of lowland Britain) however it probably feeds on the odd bluebell and isn’t a problem.

Merodon equestris

The Large Narcissus Fly (Merodon equestris) is a hoverfly and is yet another one of the species which is a bumblebee mimic (also see here and here). The species has several forms to mimic different species of bumblebee. This animal is the form narcissi and is a mimic of the Common Carder Bumblebee.

Common carder bumblebee
The Common Carder Bumblebee

Both insects are now on the wing in Devon and both are quite common.

Garden comes alive

For the last few weeks spring has been unfolding at a steady pace, today my garden has burst into life. There are butterflies, solitary bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, beetles and bugs everywhere. I even surprised a grass snake on the lawn which promptly slid off into the undergrowth. I’m sure who was most startled ….. I have managed to photograph a few species.

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle
This is a red-headed Cardinal beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)

Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatusThis is a capsid or mired bug called Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus

Green-veined White-2A green-veined white feeding on a Geranium

Criorhina floccosaThis splendid beast is a hoverfly which is mimicking a common carder bumblebee – it is called Criorhina floccosa

Criorhina floccosa - mapI have never seen this species before and it is rather a scarce species usually associated with woodland – the huge protected oaks in my garden might have helped lure it in.


Finally I found this and to be honest I don’t know what it is – any ideas anyone?