Nature Notes #38

Hoverflies and similar things

Walking by the umbellifer plants along the tracks on the marsh, I noticed a number of common hoverflies. The species are a very attractive family of true flies that harmlessly feed on flowers or around trees, and possess a myriad of colours and patterns. Importantly, they are non-biters. Some species are long-distance migrants and move through the UK in late summer and over 280 species have been recorded.
Of the bright and relatively easy ones to identify, I managed to photograph four species.

PHOTO 1 Cheilosia illustrata FM Jun29th14 7833 (2) - CopyCheilosa illustrata (female), a vague Bumblebee mimic which are a Hogweed speciality. The larvae mine the stems and roots of the plant whilst the adults feed on the flowerheads.



.PHOTO 2 Leucozona lucorum FM Jun29th14 7831 (2) copy
Leucozona lucorum (male) – a striking black and white insect that Is common in lush herbaceous vegetation around damp woodland and hedgerows.



PHOTO 3 Syrphus ribesii M Jun29th14 7549 (2) copy

Syrphus ribesii (female) – one of the yellow banded hoverflies and not easy to tell apart. The female shows hind tibia that are all yellow, so I thought S.ribesii. They are a common resident plus a migrant.

PHOTO 4 Sun-fly or Footballer Helophilus pendulus FM Jun29the14 7693 (2) copy

Helophilus pendulus – known by the common names of the ‘Sun-fly’ or ‘Footballer’, the last mentioned due to the orange and black stripes on the thorax. Very common even in gardens.



PHOTO 5 Thick-headed Fly Sicus ferrugineus FM Jun29th14 7689 copy
Distantly related to the hoverflies are the Conopid Flies, the ‘Thick-headed Flies’. These are brightly coloured but very shy and difficult to approach unless feeding. The adult female waits on a leaf for a bee or wasp to fly past and darts out and lays an egg between the segments on its abdomen. The larvae hatch and drink blood before consuming the gut and intestines. The host insect dies and the Conopid over-winters in its body, emerging as an adult the following year. Didn’t Ridley Scott make a film about them?PHOTO 6 Thick-headed Fly Sicus ferrugineus FM Jul5th14 7973 (2) copy

Thick-headed Fly – Sicus ferrugineus (images 5 & 6).

Written and images by Tony Broome