Day 4: Continuing a theme from the past two years, Close Up, where I throw a spotlight on a given species and delve a little deeper. These Close up days will be on Fridays for 2021!
Today’s Close Up will be all about one of my favourite insects: hoverflies!
Hoverflies or Syrphidae are known as true flies in the order of Diptera (having only one pair of wings). There are around 280 hoverfly species in the UK, which are active between the months of March to November. They are an excellent example of mimics (Batesian). The adults mimic the yellow and black stripes of bees and wasps (but are harmless), while their larvae mimic slugs, therefore looking undesirable food for a predator.
The life cycle of a hoverfly is that of a fly: adult, egg, larvae and pupa. While some adults feed on dead insects, the majority feed on nectar and pollen. Hoverflies are an underrated champion of pollination. Recent studies have shown that hoverflies pollinate flowers, trees and grasses. Whereas hoverfly larvae are helpful in the garden by eating unwanted aphids and other pests, while some larvae feed on fungi and parasitise bumblebee nests. For the conclusion of this post I shall focus on the larvae that are aquatic.
Buzz Club have an initiative to create Hoverfly Lagoons. These lagoons are to aid hoverflies with aquatic larvae to find appropriate breeding environments. Some larvae of hoverfly species prefer to eat the detritus of decaying matter, hence the creation of stagnant pools. Unfortunately named rat-tailed maggots, these larvae of the Myathropa and Helophilus and the drone fly (Eristalis) have tail like snorkels which help them breathe, while they enjoy the aquatic environment and eat rotten plant matter. Ellen Rothery and Dave Goulson have created some great hoverflies lagoons. Here’s more information on creating a hoverfly lagoon for yourself.
For this years 30 Days Wild, I have tried to recreate a hoverfly lagoon myself. In the past our small pond has been a welcome habitat for hoverfly larvae but I wanted to try my hand at creating a hoverfly lagoon from scratch. I used an old ceramic container, some grass cuttings, (I got from the local park), twigs (for the adults to land on), a handful of leaf litter and some water. I’ll survey near the end of 30 Days Wild and let you know if I get any success in finding any hoverfly larvae!
Have you created a hoverfly lagoon?
Thanks for reading, and stay wild!