How is it that I am only just discovering hoverflies? Of course, I’ve seen them before, hovering silently over the garden bed and feeding on flower nectar, like the humming birds of the insect world, but I wasn’t aware of all their good qualities. For one thing, they’re clever – they mimic wasps and bees to deter predators, but they don’t sting. For another, because they feed on nectar and pollen, they’re excellent pollinators. And, for a third, many types of hoverfly larvae eat aphids and other plant-suckers so they’re every gardener’s friend and can potentially be used for biological control of those hugely damaging pests.
What I also discovered last weekend was that hoverflies love wood anemones and I found three species feasting on the beautiful drifts of plants currently flowering in my local cemetery. These are they – and I’m sure this is just the start of a beautiful new fascination!
Meet Eristalis pertinax, otherwise know as the Tapered Drone Fly. It’s a common sight throughout Britain, from March right through to November, and loves hedgerows and woodland trails.
As it’s a lover of fine sunny days, Helophilus pendulus is commonly known as The Sunfly, though some call it The Footballer because its stripy thorax resembles a team strip. Personally, I prefer its scientific name, which means ‘dangling marsh-lover’, a reference to its liking for watery places.
And last and smallest for today is Platycheirus albimanus, the White-footed Hoverfly (though only the swelling on the front foot of the male is, in fact, pale). It’s another to be found throughout Britain, in gardens and hedgerows, from March to November.