Simply Hoverflies

July is hoverfly season.

David Beeson, 11th July.

References: and

Flies have a single pair of wings and, before them, a pair of halteres (shown). Halteres are a pair of small club-shaped organs on the body of two orders of flying insects that provide information about body rotations during flight. They have compound eyes and a breathing (gas exchange) system of tubes (trachea) leading from external holes (spiracles) in their semi-rigid chitin exoskeleton.

Hoverflies, hover and look similar to bee drones, but the latter have two pairs of wings. As a group, they have striking colouration.

Halteres - Wikipedia
Halteres shown

The diagram below is NOT a fly, but it shows the gas exchange system clearly. With a captive, large grasshopper the movement of the abdomen to drive oxygen-rich air through the breathing tubes can be easily watched. A dead animal, opened under water will show the silver looking (because they are air filled) trachea clearly. And, by sealing an animal with light cotton wool (or similar) in a tube you can expire air into the tube and see the effect of a slightly enhanced carbon dioxide level on the breathing / ventilation rate.

Adult hover flies live for about a month and their life cycle takes place in four stages (complete metamorphosis). The stages include egg, larva, pupa and imago (last stage is the adult).

Adults feed mainly on nectar and pollen. Beside nectar, hoverflies feed on honeydew produced by aphids. Hoverflies are one of the few kinds of insects that can digest pollen, which is a protein rich source for the eggs. The surface coating of pollen is resistant to most insect digestive juices. The yellow patterning can reflect the amount and type of pollen which the insects have eaten, they are often seen hovering or nectaring at flowers.

Larvae may feed externally on plants or they may be internal feeders, attacking the bulbs; for example the narcissus fly (Merodon equestris). In other species, the larvae are insectivores and prey on aphids, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects. In the latter case they are the gardener’s friend. In the former, there is little to be done about it! So, relax and enjoy the animal.

In some species, the larvae are saprotrophs, eating decaying plant and animal matter in the soil or in ponds and streams. For example the rat-tailed maggot, larva of the drone fly (Eristalis tenax) is found in polluted pools. They obtain air by extending their snorkel like tail breathing tubes to reach the water surface, breaking it with feathery hairs which emerge from the tube.

Mic-UK: Hoverflies - All About Hoverflies
Adult on a marigold ‘flower’. Of course it is a composite flower … each ‘petal’ is a ray floret (a flower in a biological sense), each individual structure in the central is a disc floret. Florets potentially contain all the typical parts of a flower – sepals, petals, stamens and female structures. So, this marigold is a bunch of flowers.
Madonna lily.
Welsh poppy
The seed capsules of the poppy open when the seeds are mature and wind rocking throws them out. They need light before germination is likely, so keep the seeds over winter and scatter them on the soil surface in spring.
Pollen feeding.
Dropwort, a plant of open grasslands. Easily confused with meadow sweet, a plant of damper soils … but the two are found adjacent in our garden.
A frilly variant of the opium poppy.
Gaillardia. Another flower head composed of many disc and ray florets.

I recently met the lady who runs An impressive, positive lady. Her website has some lovely ideas and worth an explore. No adverts! has 100+ ad-free articles. If you go to the home page you can scroll down to seek out articles that may be of interest – trips to the USA, dragonflies, wildlife gardening, botany, UK field trips. Free education.

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