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Hoverfly / Flower Fly

Common Name: Hoverfly (UK) /  Flower Fly (U.S.) .

Scientific Name: family Syrphidae.

What to look for?  Black and yellow striped flying insect. But do not fear as it is neither a bee nor a wasp! This tiny insect is a Hoverfly? They are also known by sweat bees or flower flies or syrphid flies. Many Hoverflies have body patterns that have this black and yellow coloration. For their own protection, Hoverflies take advantage of our learned response by mimicking these stinging insects that we fear. But Hoverflies are actually flies and they cannot sting. They belong in the fly family Syrphidae. Hoverflies have a single pair of wings like flies whereas bees and wasps have two pairs. If you can get a close up or magnified view, you can also see their two enormous brown eyes.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Hoverfly will be found here from late spring to September.  They are mostly found on or hovering near flowers such as the Daisy Fleabane In the prairie areas along our walking paths.

How big are they? The Hoverfly is quite tiny. It averages approximately one-quarter of an inch in length. And their wingspan is approximately one-half of one inch.

What are their flight patterns? As in their name – “Hover”-fly, one of their unique flight skills is to hover near flowers. In addition to controlled hovering, the Hoverfly can fly forward and backward. It also has a rapid start-stop darting flight characteristic.

How else do they behave? Hoverflies sometime do land on people to lick salty sweat.

What’s for dinner? Hoverflies that come to your garden in search of flower nectar will also look for plants that are infested with aphids, and scatter their eggs on leaves where young aphids are hatching. The larvae will feast on the aphids.

Where do they take up residence? The Hoverfly is found across the U.S. is found statewide in Illinois. Hoverflies reside in a variety of wetlands and marshes and in wet prairies.

When and where do they breed and nest? Like other flies, Hoverflies go through all stages of insect life: (1) egg; (2) larva; (3) pupa; and (4) imago (Adult emergence). The female Hoverfly lays her eggs among the aphids and other plants and in two to three days the larvae hatch. The larvae of Hoverflies are remarkably diverse for just one family of flies with some adapting to aquatic life and eating decaying materials and others residing on plants and eating aphids. The larvae feed for seven to 10 days before they pupate. And they emerge as adults ten days later. With many generations per growing season, Hoverflies are here to stay.

Where do they migrate? No.

What is their conservation status? There is no concern.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No.

Interesting Facts About the Hoverfly:

  • The name "hover"-fly comes from their ability to hover near flowers – and humans!

  • When distinguishing bees from Hoverflies, you should use Sandy Mason’s saying (state Master Gardener Coordinator): “Count the wings. Two wings: fun; four wings: run!”

  • Hoverflies are one of the most prolific pollinators in the Illinois garden, according to University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Kelly Allsup.

  • According to Cornell University, the larvae can eat up to 400 aphids, which “they grasp with their jaws, hold them up in the air, suck out their body contents and toss the exoskeleton aside.”

For more information on the Hoverfly and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Nature Spot (UK), All About Hoverflies, Illinois DNR, University of Illinois Extension, and article in Kendall County NOW.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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