How to identify syrphid flies

syrphid flies

One of the more beneficial insects, the syrphid fly might also be considered a pest to some beekeepers. This amazing little fly, that in some species looks more like a bee than a fly, can be found in most flower gardens or moving along from flower to flower in fields of wild flowers. From the Diptera order and the Syrphidae family, this interesting little insect is often commonly called the hover or flower fly.

This is because the syrphid fly, unlike the bee, is capable of hovering over a flower as it collects nectar. To identify the syrphid fly one will have to remain motionless among the flowers until the insect life is comfortable to approach. When this insect approaches, you will immediately think it is a bee since it has the same black and yellow body in most species. But there are several observable differences in the bee and syrphid fly.

To begin with, the syrphid fly has only two pairs of wings while the bees have four. A bee is more apt to light on the flower to drink nectar while the syrphid fly will hover above the blossoms while it drinks its fill.
Unlike the bee, the syrphid fly will not sting or bite. While some species of this insect have the hairy appearing body of a bee, others may look more like a wasp with long, slender and hairless bodies.

Even though the syrphid fly is considered a common insect and the second most important one in the pollination of flowers, little is known about the bee or wasp like origin of its appearance. It is believed that the coloration and body shape might be the result of larval activity in some species that are known to lay their eggs in the nest of bees or wasp.

When the larvae hatch, the body parts of other insect that have died while inhabiting their nest are a major part of their diet before dropping to the ground to become adults. It is believed that this, in turn, may result in the fly taking on a similar appearance to the wasp or bee that it has fed on.
In some species of the syrphid fly, such as the syrphus americanus, the larva is a welcome visitor.

This is because these tiny worms feed mainly on aphids, some caterpillars and scale which makes it very beneficial around any plant that is attacked by these plant destroyers. In other species from the microdontines genera the larvae are hatched in termite and ant beds. These factors coupled with their importance in the pollination of flowers makes most species of the syrphid fly a welcome visitor in almost any type of garden. With close to 4,000 species of syrphid flies, this tiny creature can be found throughout the world.

As they buzz around, which they have been observed doing without any wing movement; these interesting insects collect nectar from the flowers and honeydew from aphids. While doing this, the males are establishing they’re mating territories while the female’s drink up the nectar that is necessary for the proper formation of her eggs.

A close observer can detect the mating territory chosen by a male syrphid fly by watching the very specific area he patrols. As other insects enter his territory he will quickly chase them away as he comes into contact with them. If a female syrphid fly enters his territory he will fly after her and make an attempt to mate.

If the female is receptive and mating occurs, she will then deposit her eggs. In some species, this is done in areas where aphids are plentiful but in other species, it may be on the bulbs of plants or even in piles of manure. Once the eggs hatch the larvae will feed throughout the summer on their chosen food source.

When the colder months approach they will crawl into the ground to hibernate. The following spring most syrphid fly larvae begin their pupation, which can last up to two weeks. As summer arrives the adults emerge to feed, mate, and pollinate the flowers.

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