Flower flies or Syrphid flies

Drone fly on goldenrod

Flower flies are frequent flower visitors, hence the name. In England they are called hover flies, because of their behavior when visiting flowers. At first sight they are easily mistaken by bees. The main difference is that flies have only one pair of wings while bees have two pairs. Other differences are easier to see: the eyes, are much larger in flies than bees. The antennae of flies are very short and they have a thin bristle, called arista while bee’s antennae are longer and made of a series of segments. Fly legs are usually a lot thinner than those of bees. In general flies are less hairy than bees.

Syrphus fly, a kind of syrphini fly

The drone fly is about the same size as a honey bee; it has yellow and brown markings. It is stout. Syrphini flies have a pattern similar to that of the drone fly but are more slender and a little smaller. There are several different species but they can only be told apart if captured and observed closely, preferably under a microscope.


Syrphus fly on Queen Anne's lace

Some say that the drone fly is a bee mimic while the Syrphini flies imitate wasps.
All these flies are very beneficial in the garden. The adults pollinate the flowers they visit and the larvae of some of them eat lots of aphids and other pests.

Habitat. Fields and gardens, also cities, parks. Some species are often near aphid infestations because their larvae feed on aphids. Throughout North America.

Season. From early spring to late fall. They are most abundant in the summer.

Flowers. They prefer flat, open flowers, easy to reach. They visit many members of the daisy family or the aster family. Sometimes they bask on the sun on a leaf.

A fly and a bee
A syrphid fly

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One Response to “Flower flies or Syrphid flies”

  1. Flower flies as pollinators Says:

    […] bees for their role as pollinators. But many other visitors deserve our attention. The flies of the Syrphidae family are among […]

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