Our Bushland Diary

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's a wasp! It's a bee! No, it's a HOVERFLY!

Most people hate wasps, tolerate bees, and haven't got a clue what a hoverfly is. But if you have a garden or go bushwalking, I bet you've seen plenty of hoverflies and not realised what they are.

Imagine an insect about the size of a small blowfly, with a skinny body and big eyes. Six legs, two wings, and an abdomen that is striped so that it resembles that of a wasp or honeybee. Imagine that this insect can hover in midair, wings moving so fast that they are almost invisible, and zip around in any direction at great speed. That's a pretty rough description of what a hoverfly looks like.

These wonderful little animals are a benefit in the garden, and in bushland of course, because they visit flowers to feed on pollen and nectar, and are important pollinators. Female hoverflies lay little white eggs near aphids; when the larvae hatch they start to eat the aphids, thrips and any other plant-sucking pests that are nearby. Hoverflies have no sting.

Around Ellenbrook, hoverflies readily visit gardens that have flowering plants such as Pink Rice Flower (Pimelea ferruginea) and Morning Iris (Orthrosanthus laxus). In bushland, we have seen hoverflies on the flowers of Purple Flag (Patersonia occidentalis) and Balga (Xanthorrhoea preissii).

And here are some pictures.

Hoverflies belong to the insect family Syrphidae. They are sometimes called "flower flies". There are about 6000 species world-wide.

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