Eristalis tenax

The ‘Drone Fly’ is a large hoverfly that mimics honey bees.

The Drone Fly is a common and widespread hoverfly, being found on all continents with the exception of Antarctica.

It can be readily identified by the unique combination of three features (Ball & Morris, 2015). The eyes have vertical stripes of dark hairs, there is a broad, dark facial stripe, and the hind tibia is curved and thickened.

Males are highly territorial and will defend a territory throughout their lives, chasing off rivals and other insects.

The Drone Fly is a pollen eater and, along with other hoverflies, is an important pollinator. In the UK it is active between March and December, with numbers and activity peaking in high and late summer.

The Drone Fly has been subject to extensive research into it’s biology and ecology. For example a recent paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology has shown that they have a preference for yellow flowers with a UV bull’s-eye pattern.

Nemophora metallica

The Brassy Long-Horn is a spectacular micro moth

The Brassy Long-horn Moth is one of the ‘long-horn’ micro moths so named because of their exuberantly long antennae (males only). In Nemophora metallica the male’s antennae are at least three times the length of the forewings.

The moth is a day flying moth of high summer, is restricted to southern England and is Nationally Scarce (B) meaning that it has only been recorded in 31 to 100 ten kilometre squares in Great Britain.

The larvae feed on Filed Scabious (Knautia arvensis), the flower shown in the photo above. The specimen above was found along with many others on Field Scabious growing on the West Kennet Long Barrow, a Neolithic burial mound near Avebury, Wiltshire.

Roeseliana roeselii

Roeseliana roeselii or Metrioptera roeselii, also known as Roesel’s Bush-cricket

Roesel’s Bush-cricket is a relatively large and colourful bush-cricket distinguished from other similar species by the yellow-green markings along the side of the abdomen and matching markings along the entire edge of the pronotum. The specimen in the photograph is a female. She has a long ovipositor at the end of her abdomen which she uses to lay eggs in the stalks of plants.

Up until the early 20th century Roesel’s Bush-cricket was only found along the south coast of the UK, but it has been steadily expanding it’s range and is now found throughout southern and central England.

It typically occurs in damp meadows and ungrazed, undisturbed grasslands. It is omnivorous feeding on grasses, seeds and small insects.

It is almost entirely wingless, but occasionally winged, macropterous forms occur. The macropterous form is a dispersal phase and enables the species to spread more rapidly. The occurrence and environmental controls on the winged form of the species has been the subject of recent research.

Scaeva pyrastri

A charismatic, migratory high summer hoverfly

Scaeva pyrastri is a relatively large hoverfly with distinctive comma-shaped markings on a black ground on its abdomen which give it its common name of the Pied Hoverfly. Although on the wing in the UK typically from about April to September, they are at their most numerous during high summer.

Ball and Morris (2105) state that it is a migratory species that arrives in Britain in highly variable numbers from year to year. It is widespread, but scarcer in the uplands.

The specimen shown above is a female as indicated by the widely-spaced eyes.

Platycnemis pennipes

The White-legged Damselfly is an uncommon damselfly of southern England

The White-legged Damselfly, also known as Blue Featherleg, has distinctive broad, creamy-white legs with long hairs on the tibia giving a feathery appearance. Other characteristic features of this damselfly are the pale orange pterostigma – the coloured cells found towards the tips of each wing, and a combination of a broad black ante-humeral stripe on the top of the thorax and two finer stripes on the side of the thorax that join towards the head.

White-legged Damselflies are found locally along slow flowing muddy-bottomed rivers across southern England and often in association with Banded Demoiselles who share a preference for this habitat. Their flight season is typically between May and August.

Pre-mating courtship rituals are reported to be complex in this species. Females will use a bouncy, jerking flight to first attract males, who then will show their white legs in a fluttering display flight in front of females prior to mating.

Episyrphus balteatus

The Marmalade Fly is the UK’s most common hoverfly

Episyrphus balteatus, also known as the Marmalade Fly or the Marmalade Hoverfly, is found in large numbers throughout the UK . It can be seen in all months of the year, although the peak abundance is in late July.

It is a very variable species with the ground colour depending on the temperature at which the larvae developed. Dark individuals are typically found earlier in the year and are associated with cooler conditions.

Larvae feed on a variety of aphid species, including crop pests such as cereal aphids and Cabbage Aphid. Marmalade Hoverflies are valued by gardeners as the adults help pollinate flowers and food crops.

Dorcus parallelipipedus

The Lesser Stag Beetle is a large beetle typically found in woodlands, parklands, and gardens in central and southern England

Despite being smaller than it’s more well-known relative, the Lesser Stag Beetle, Dorcus parallelipipedus, is large, up to 3 cm in length with large jaws. It is often found throughout summer in woodland, parks and gardens wherever there are old, rotting trees that it’s larvae live in and feed on.

The females, as shown here, have smaller mandibles than the males. Unlike the males, the entire body of the females, including the mandibles, is strongly punctured and shiny, and they also have two closely-spaced tubercles on the head.

Eggs are laid in rotting wood above ground level, with larvae taking one to two years to mature. Adults can live for up to two years and may be found sheltering overwinter in plant pots in the garden.

Distinctive tubercles on the head of a female Lesser Stag Beetle

Panorpa communis

The Common Scorpionfly is a spectacular, but harmless fly of hedgerows and nettle patches.

The Common Scorpionfly is one of about 600 species in the Order Mecoptera, or Scorpionflies. They are not true flies (Diptera) and are more closely related to fleas. They are an ancient Order of insects with fossil records dating back to the Upper Permian, over 250 million years ago.

Like other scorpionflies, the Common Scorpionfly has long, beak-like mouth parts, long wings, and a cylindrical abdomen. In the male this typically curves up at the end with an enlarged genital bulb at the tip, so that it appears to resemble the tail of a scorpion although it contains no sting. This structure is absent in the females.

They are common throughout large parts of the UK and can be found in damp and shady hedgerows and particularly on banks of nettles. Despite having large wings, they do not fly long distances, preferring to crawl over damp vegetation in search of their preferred foods, including dead insects and plant sap.

Female Scorpionfly, June 2020

Sympetrum sanguieum

The Ruddy Darter is a dragonfly of shallow ponds in south-east England

Female and immature Ruddy Darters are ochre while mature males are blood red in colour. They are similar to the Common Darter and are distinguished from the latter by having all black legs, the males a noticeably wasted abdomen, and the females and immatures have a characteristic t-shaped black mark on the thorax.

They have a long flight season, typically from mid-May until the first frosts of October or November. They prefer well vegetated ponds, and although most common in south-east England, their range is increasing northward in the UK.

Female Ruddy Darter, Earth Trust, June 2020
Male Ruddy Darter, Norfolk, July, 2018

Libellula quadrimaculata

The Four-spotted Chaser is an easily recognised, relatively common dragonfly of still waters

The Four-spotted Chaser takes its name from the dark spots on the nodes of each wing: a unique and distinctive patterning for a European dragonfly. In the UK it has a long flight season, from late April to mid September, but is most commonly found in early summer.

Unlike some other dragonflies, the males and females of Libellula quadrimaculata are similar in appearance. They are typically found at the edge of shallow ponds and lakes. They readily perch on bare twigs and the storks of plants repeatedly returning to the same perch, making them a great subject for photography.

Males will patrol the surface of ponds driving off rivals, and once they have successfully mated with a female will hover above her as she lays her eggs.