Sign up to our newsletter Community Matters

October Sussex Wildlife Trust: Hoverflies

October 1st, 2023
For some reason, they’re not as loveable as bees. Perhaps it’s because most of the time people mistake them for wasps
Everyone loves bees, don’t they? Knowing that our bees are in decline has prompted protests and petitions and highlighted the important service these buzzing pollinators provide to our planet. Without them our crops and ecosystems would collapse. Yet many other pollinators that provide the same service don’t get the same level of public support. So today I’m waving my flag for the hoverflies.

For some reason, they’re not as loveable as bees. Perhaps it’s because most of the time people mistake them for wasps. This isn’t totally our fault because that’s exactly what the hoverflies want you to think. The 283 species of hoverfly in the UK come in many shapes, colours and sizes but most of them sport yellow and black stripes, making them easily confused for wasps, bees, hornets and bumblebees. It’s a strategy called Batesian mimicry and was first proposed by Leicestershire lepidopterist Henry Bates in 1861. Hoverflies are harmless. They don’t sting and can’t bite but they have discovered you don’t actually have to be dangerous to deter predators – you just have to look like something that’s dangerous.

Yet their devious mimicry isn’t the most incredible thing about them. Their wings are the things. Hoverflies (like all flies) have just two wings (half as many wings as bees and wasps). Whereas other flies keep their wings straight, hoverflies incline theirs to create an angled downward stroke at a remarkable rate of 120 beats per second. This allows hoverflies to fly to a most amazing place: nowhere. Hoverflies have become the motionless masters of mid-air.

It’s not all sitting around in the sky though. During their few days of life, hoverflies fight, fornicate and feed and while busy collecting energy-giving nectar and protein-rich pollen they inadvertently provide that vital pollination service to our flowers and crops. And hoverflies have earned the title of ‘The Gardeners Friend’ because about 40% of them have a larval stage which is basically a tiny crawling stomach that roams around your flowerbed eating aphids.

Pollination, pest control – next thing you know these beneficial little insects will be mowing the front lawn for us too.

So why not thank these friendly flies by planting some of their favourite flowers in your garden - parsley, fennel, borage, hebe, sedum and alliums - and consider putting in a pond no matter how small. Do your bit for the pollinators and they’ll keep the world working for us.

By Michael Blencowe: Learning & Engagement Officer, Sussex Wildlife Trust.
Sussex Wildlife Trust is an independent registered charity caring for wildlife and habitats throughout Sussex.

It’s easy to join online at:

or T: 01273 497532

Syrphus ribesiiё Alan Price Gatehouse Studio
Helophilus spļ Chris Maguire Photography

Share this article...

Comments (0)

No comments have been submitted yet.
Why not be the first to send us your thoughts

Leave A Comment

Submit Comment

Thank you for your comments, they will appear shortly once approved.
Have You Seen...
Content Managed by Your SteyningCrafted by Scaws