Hoverflies (Diptera, Syrphidae) belong to a large family of flies. They are true flies, with only one pair of wings (wasps and bees have two pairs). Hovering is a speciality, with the head of the insect remaining completely still whilst in flight:
Many species are useful to the gardener, because their larvae eat pest aphids on garden plants and crops. The degree to which they contribute to pollination is in fact poorly studied, but their importance is in no doubt for carrots, onions and fruit trees.
They may be seen “nectaring” on many wild and garden flowers where they are amongst the most numerous and frequent of visitors. In Britain ~270 species are known at present, but significant species and numbers migrate like butterflies (e.g. the european Scaeva pyrastri, which is a large, black, distinctive fly with three pairs of white comma markings on the abdomen) .
One of the most common hoverflies to be seen in the garden in Britain is the Marmalade Fly, Episyrphus balteatus. Distinctive double stripes on the abdomen make it almost unmistakable.
In 1976 a National Recording Scheme was launched for Great Britain to collate information about their ecology and distribution.
And the winner is ….. Papaver somniferum, which managed to attract eleven hoverflies and one bumblebee.
Can you beat that?