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!