NatureSpot Wildlife Guide
ID Guide to Common Hoverflies

Hoverflies are a family of flies, many of which (though not all) have a yellow and black colour pattern in order to mimic bees and wasps. Whilst they are totally harmless, by resembling insects that can sting they hope to put off predators. Hoverflies only have one pair of wings so can be distinguished from bees and wasps which have two pairs. They feed on nectar and pollen so can be most easily seen visiting flowers.

Visit the NatureSpot hoverfly gallery to view all species found in Leicestershire and Rutland.

Photo of Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly - Episyrphus balteatus

This is commonest hoverfly in the UK and has been seen in every month of the year. It hibernates over the winter, emerging on warm days. Numbers are also boosted by large migrations from mainland Europe.

ID: Orange and black 'moustache' bands on the abdomen. Sometimes white bands as well.

Photo of Tapered Drone Fly

Tapered Dronefly - Eristalis pertinax

A mimic of male bees - the drones. On the wing from March through to November. The Common Dronefly is similar but this has dark front tarsi and a broader abdomen.

ID: Dark brown with a pair of orange spots. Pale front tarsi (feet). Males have a tapering abdomen.

Photo of Batman Hoverfly

Batman Hoverfly - Myathropa florea

This attractive hoverfly gets its common name from the dark shape on its thorax - which resembles the famous batman symbol. It flies from May through to October and is a regular visitor to flowers.

ID: Black with orange spots and a 'halo' of yellow hairs around the body. 'Batman' mark on the thorax.

Photo of The Footballer

The Footballer - Helophilus pendulus

Called 'The Footballer' due to its stripy thorax, however there are other species with similar stripes. Common around water, seen from April to November.

ID: Stripy thorax. Orange/yellow pattern on a black abdomen. Black face stripe. On the hind tibia is only the last third is black and the mid tibia is all yellow.

Photo of Pellucid Fly

Pellucid Hoverfly - Volucella pellucens

Seen from May to October, this is one of the largest flies in Britain. Its larvae live in the nests of social wasps and bumblebees, eating waste products as well as the bee larvae.

ID: Ivory band across the abdomen. Dark wing patches. Brown scutellum.

Photo of Leucozona lucorum

Leucozona lucorum

Seen May - August. Though similar to the Pellucid Hoverfly, it is smaller and distinguished by the orange scutellum.

ID: White band across the abdomen. Dark wing patches. Yellow-orange scutellum.

Photo of Long Hoverfly

Long Hoverfly - Sphaerophoria scripta

Numbers of this hoverfly are often boosted by migrants from mainland Europe. Like most ladybirds, its larvae feed on aphids. Adults feed on nectar and are common visitors to flowers.

ID: Yellow and black abdomen. Males (with eyes touching) wings are shorter than the body. Females, however, cannot be visually distinguished from other Sphaerophora species.

Photo of Rhingia campestris

Rhingia campestris

On the wing April - October. There are two Rhingia species in Britain, both with a long snout. R. rostrata has a bright orange abdomen without any dark markings or stripes. The larvae breed in cow dung where they are exceedingly well camouflaged in the surface layer.

ID: Protruding snout. Orange abdomen with thin black stripes and often a central dark stripe. Dark thorax.

Photo of Thick-legged Hoverfly

Thick-legged Hoverfly

Being small, this species is easy to overlook but is a common garden visitor, visiting flowers. It breeds in compost, manure and other rotting organic matter.

ID: Small, dark with small silvery patches on the abdomen. Thickened hind legs.


Photo of Volucella inanis

Hornet Hoverfly - Volucella inanis

Seen June-September (peaking in August). This species has been expanding northwards in recent years and is a striking addition to our hoverfly fauna. It is a parasite of wasp larvae, including Hornets. The similar V. zonaria has a chestnut band on the abdomen.

ID: Very large! Yellow and black markings (no chestnut). Brown thorax with thick, black lines.


Guide last updated in September 2023.