Hoverfly (?Heliophilus pendulas?)

It's interesting, how once you start taking photographs of things close-up, you realise what an amazing variety there is in a small space, and you notice more the differing details. This summer I've a new camera, with a more powerful zoom lens, and have a tripod to attach it to. Some happy 'time wasting' on sunny afternoons, taking photos of bees, and indeed any other thing that visited my flowers, made me aware of just how many insects there are in the garden, how much variety there is. Further investigation on the web revealed that many of the handsome creatures I captured on camera are hoverflies.

Hoverfly, September 2007

This one, left, might look, with a casual glance, like the one above, and I wouldn't have noticed the difference if I was just sitting there watching them, but it's obvious that this one has different markings - it doesn't have the extra stripes near the head of the one above. Does it matter? It does to me, and presumably it matters if you're a hoverfly. Some of them look rather like wasps - which is supposed to deter predators (though I imagine it means they're more likely to be swatted by ignorant humans). I've just read that a handy way of telling the difference, if in doubt, is that hoverflies have only one set of wings, whereas bees and wasps have two.

Hoverfly in the garden, September

Hoverflies are beneficial in the garden as their larvae eat aphids, aka greenfly or blackfly, which are of course a problem in most gardens at some time. The adult hoverflies feed on pollen and nectar, which means they're also valuable pollinators. Many of the photos on this page show them feeding on the flowers of a mint plant, in mid-September. It was a sunny afternoon, and I noticed much bee and hoverfly activity. The hoverflies seemed to be of a few different types, which I don't recall seeing before - but then of course I've only just started looking properly.

Hoverfly (?Episyrphus balteatus), July 2007

Earlier in the summer hoverflies seemed to be drawn to the flowering Euphorbia cornigera - a new plant recently introduced to the garden. This photo, from mid-July, shows a type of hoverfly I've seen a lot in the garden over the years. I think it's the Marmalade Fly - Episyrphus balteatus. (They have wonderfully ornate proper names, to match their ornate markings.) I think this is the same type I included a larger photo of in the wildlife photos, some years back. This type is apparently one of the most common in gardens.

Hoverfly on euphorbia, July 2007

We take so much for granted, and the smallest creatures on our planet are probably the most overlooked - unless they cause problems (cat fleas come to mind). But all these small beasties that visit our gardens and pollinate our crops and - in the case of many of the hoverflies - have larvae that eat the aphids that damage our crops, and our flowers - are obviously a crucial part of the larger cycle. Here they are doing their thing, in all their infinite variety.

Links to more information

The links below give more information and include photographs which can help with hoverfly identification.

For comprehensive information and photographs: All about Hover Flies

The Hoverfly Recording Scheme, at www.hoverfly.org.uk

Hoverflies, from UK Nature

Hoverfly on mint, 16 September 2007
Hoverfly, 19 July 2007