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.

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.

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.

Xanthogramma pedissequum

An eye catching hoverfly with an unusual life cycle

Xanthogramma pedissequum is an eye catching hoverfly on the wing from May to September.

It’s an uncommon hoverfly, with records in the National Biodiversity Network Atlas suggesting a quite localised distribution throughout central and southern England.

According to Wikipedia, the larval stages are associated with Black garden ants (Lasius niger) and Yellow meadow ants (Lasius flavus) and probably feed on ant-attended root aphids.

The photograph was taken during the last week of April in a hay meadow adjacent to the Thames at the Earth Trust, Little Wittenham.