How to identify hoverflies

Enchanting but overlooked, hoverflies are easy to find - even a hanging basket can lure them. Midsummer is the time to seek them out.


All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole


1. Syrphus ribessi (above)

One of three very similar yellow and black banded species. Produces the loud hum often heard in midsummer woods. Also seen in gardens and fields.


2. Xanthogramma pedissequum

Mimics wasps, with yellow triangles on first abdominal segment; dark wing marks. Grassland, mainly in south.


3. Marmalade hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Unique pattern of double black bars on each abdominal segment. Open countryside, woods and gardens.


4. Scaeva pyrastri

Large, with white ‘comma’ markings on black abdomen. Migrates from mainland Europe to UK gardens and open country; numbers vary annually.


5. Eristalis arbustorum

Medium-sized dronefly. Mimics honeybees; usually has bold orange triangles at base of abdomen. Open countryside, woods and gardens.


6. Tapered drone-fly Eristalis pertinax

Large drone-fly. Mimics honeybees. Yellow-tipped front and middle legs. Open country, woods and gardens.


7. Eristalis intricarius (male)

Furry bumblebee mimic. Sexes are unusually well differentiated: tail is white in male and reddish in female. Gardens and open countryside.


8. Helophilus pendulus

Yellow-striped thorax. Gardens, open country and woods. Breeds in ponds, compost and manure. H. Hybridus is a very similar wetland species.


9. Volucella inanis

Large. Mimics hornets; the similar V. zonaria is even larger and rustier. Gardens and woodland edge; mainly in south and Midlands but spreading.


10. Volucella bombylans

Excellent bumblebee mimic with several colour forms, including black/white and yellow, and black and red. Gardens, hedgerows and woodland.


11. Great pied hoverfly Volucella pellucens

Large and unmistakeable, with broad white patches on fat, black abdomen. Woodland rides, lanes and gardens.


12. Xylota segnis


Mimics solitary wasps. Orange band on slim black abdomen; partly yellow legs. Leafy gardens, hedgerows and woods; scuttles over leaves and logs.