Hoverflies are a fascinating group of insects. They belong to the family Syrphidae, within the order Diptera (true flies). As they are often brightly coloured and very common in gardens many people will be familiar with them. Many have black and yellow markings and so are often confused with bees and wasps. However hoverflies are totally harmless and are definitely a gardener's friend, as the larvae of several common species have a voracious appetite for aphids! Very few hoverflies have common names. Indeed, those that do exist are not always widely known and agreed by all.

There are over 270 species of hoverflies in Britain and around 140 of these have been recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland (VC55). However not many people record hoverflies so there may be more to be found!

Useful Websites and Publications

Hoverflies - internet Hoverflies - books
Hoverfly Recording Scheme - forum based site with lots of photos and expert help available if you register (free). British Hoverflies: An Illustrated Identification Guide - Stubbs & Falk. If you are serious about getting to grips with hoverflies, this is the bible. It is very comprehensive and has colour plates of most species plus descriptions and a key to all UK species.
British Hoverflies - a hoverfly enthusiast's site with lots of quality photos. Britain's Hoverflies: An Introduction to the Hoverflies of Britain (WILDGuides) by Ball and Morris, less technical than Stubbs and Falk, but covers all known UK species and is be geared towards those that can be ID'd from photos.
Steve Falk's hoverflies - an excellent image collection from one of the best UK entomologists.  
UK Hoverflies Facebook page - invaluable resource for beginners.  ID's and ID guidance given by regular experts, including Roger Morris.  

If you know of other websites or books that you would recommend, do let us know: info@naturespot.co.uk

Recording Schemes

In VC55 there isn't a County Recorder for hoverflies alone but there is one for Diptera as a whole: Darwyn Sumner.

Nationally the Hoverfly Recording Scheme (see link above), launched in 1976, collects hoverfly records for the whole of the UK and aims to collate information about their ecology and distribution.

As with all records, any submissions you make to NatureSpot will be automatically forwarded to both local and national recording schemes.


Few hoverflies can be identified in the field but many can be from a decent photograph. Others need to be examined with a good lens or binocular microscope using a key.

As with all keys, it is usually importantl to have a grasp of anatomy in order to understand which part of the creature is being referred to. An excellent interactive guide to fly anatomy is available here.

Roger Morris, a national expert on hoverflies has posted an interesting blog on identifying hoverflies from photos, concluding that around 60% of species are possible.