A few posts ago I showed you some of the spider I encountered in the short spell of good weather we had in the late summer and early autumn. I think maybe some species were making hay whilst the sun was shining because there were also a lot of hoverflies around at that time too. And here are three of the species I found. It’s the wrong time of year to be posting about hoverflies, hence the title of the post, but I haven’t been able to get out with my camera so I reckon a hoverfly post is better than none at all! Identifying hoverflies can be tricky because there are species which look very similar to each other and I’m no expert, so I hope my identifications are accurate but if any of you spot an error please let me know.
Eristalis tenax is a type of hoverfly known as a ‘drone fly’, so called because they mimic honey bee drones. They are common throughout the UK and the females, which mate before overwintering and laying their eggs in the springtime, can be seen in any month of the year because they emerge from hibernation to feed when the weather warms up sufficiently. The larvae of this species are called ‘rat-tailed maggots’ and feed in sewage outflows and rotting carcasses – the more putrid it is the more they seem to like it! They are aquatic and the reason they are called ‘rat-tailed’ is that they have an extendable tube which can protrude up to around 5cm which they poke out of the water and use to breath air.
Tapered drone fly – Eristalis pertinax
The tapered drone fly is so called because the male has a tapered abdomen which is visible on this individual. It is otherwise a similar species to E. tenax and it’s larvae are also known as rat-tailed maggots. Apart from the taper it’s also distinguishable from E. tenax by it front legs which are pale.
My favourite hoverfly I found this year is this one:
The footballer – Helophilus pendulus
It’s called ‘the footballer’ because it’s colours are likened to a football shirt. It’s scientific name means ‘dangling sun lover’. The larvae of this species feed on detritus and have been found in wet manure, drains and in very wet sawdust. It’s widespread throughout the UK and can be seen throughout the summer in bright sunny locations in hedgerows. Despite the unsavoury but indispensable habits of the larvae of all of these species they transform into the most handsome adults.
I haven’t done a dedicated Christmas post this year so here’s wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2013!
Happy holidays, Finn, and thanks for all of the nature lore you’ve shared this year. 😉
Thanks Ruth, and to you too 🙂
How fitting that you would be talking about “flies” at this time of year…we Aussies are plagued by them! Last year we found an amazing fly with what looked like a portrait of Rasputin on its back! I just tried to find out what it was but methinks I need to refine my searches a bit ;). We spend our summers trying to keep our Aussie flies out of our homes and it’s a never ending battle. Come march, we get march flies, biting flies that are HUGE. I guess we can’t have it all eh? 😉 Merry Christmas to you and yours as well and no matter how cold and snowy it is over there, at least you don’t have a house full of blowflies!
Give me cold and snowy any day! I don’t envy you your plagues of flies, especially the biting kind.
I’m looking forward to reading about your permaculture exploits in 2013. Have a good one 🙂
You too and I am looking forwards to reading more about U.K. birds, bugs and plants (especially fungi… I LOVE fungi 🙂 )
More fungi it is then, in 2013 🙂
It´s always the right time for posting photos with a little sunshine on. 🙂
Glædelig jul to you and your family.
I think you’re right there Birgitte, I guess reminders of summer are always welcome. And glædelig jul og godt nytår to you and yours too.
Merry Christmas, Finn!
Thanks Terry, and to you too. I hope the evil weather further east has missed you!
Happy holliday, Finn. And by the way, overfishing really is a serious problem…
Thanks Bente. It’s really good to see the discussion taking place at the EU to prevent overfishing and make the industry sustainable. If it doesn’t happen the consequences will be dire indeed.
I keep learning from your blog!
Thanks Sam, I’m very pleased to hear that folk are learning from my posts. Makes me very happy 🙂
They’re not the sort of little chaps you could take home to meet the family, are they? I must admit to being slightly put off by their habits, but I must also admit that they are very handsome blighters. Your photos are marvellous, and your facts as intriguing and curious as ever. A very merry Christmas and a happy new year to you too! (I think this is a splendid Christmas post, by the way.)
Indeed so Lorna, and you wouldn’t want to be invited round to theirs for tea either 😉 But it’s only the youngsters with the foul habits, a bit like us humans really if my boy’s anything to go by, the adults feed on nectar and pollen.
Thanks for all your interesting posts in 2012 Finn – and a merry christmas to you too!
We had some of those rat-tailed maggots in a container of stagnant water in the garden a couple of years ago – they certainly aren’t as beautiful as their parents!
You’re welcome Maggie, it’s good to hear from you again. I’d love to find some rat tailed maggots in my garden, they’d make a great post if I could get some pictures!
Thank you Finn, same to you! Great pictures. I love hoverflies, we’re trying to attract as many as possible. They seem to adore Ragwort, hmm maybe I’ve said this before??!, anyway, we leave it til last possible minute before cutting them. They also like some Scabious ochreleuca which I’ve got mixed in with natives – this hasn’t gone down that well with my husband who is mainly keen on native plants! I can’t help it though, I’m a gardener 🙂
I guess ragwort and cattle is a tricky combination to manage. I’ve never seen Scabious ochreleuca, it’s lovely, a yellow version of field scabious (Knautia arvensis) which is ubiquitous around here. I’m afraid I’m with your husband, if it was down to me we’d only have natives in our garden. But of course my voting rights are limited 🙂
Fascinating post as ever Finn!
Thanks Adrian, I’m glad you liked it.