Hoverflies, (Syrphidae sp), are a family of flies recognized for their unique hovering ability, resembling miniature helicopters, before swiftly changing direction.
With body lengths ranging from 4-10 mm, adult hoverflies possess flattened, dark-colored bodies adorned with distinctive black and yellow markings, resembling bees or wasps. This mimicry serves as a defense mechanism, deterring potential predators by resembling stinging insects. However, unlike bees or wasps, hoverflies do not possess stingers.
The larvae of hoverflies are maggot-like grubs lacking legs and eyes, and they exhibit varying colors, ranging from cream to green or brown. Many larvae feature white stripes on their dorsal side and can reach lengths of up to 10 mm.
Adult hoverflies rely on pollen as a food source, making them valuable contributors to pollination. In contrast, the larvae display generalist predatory behavior, primarily preying upon aphids, caterpillars, and mealybugs, thereby aiding in pest control. Consequently, hoverflies serve as beneficial insects in agricultural fields.
Green peach aphid
Maintaining non-crop plants in and around agricultural fields can positively impact hoverfly populations by providing crucial food sources for adult hoverflies in the form of pollen and nectar.
Hoverflies show a preference for yellow and white flowers, particularly those with open centers that facilitate easy access to pollen.
Hoverflies are currently not available to buy commercially. However, creating diverse habitats with hedgerows, cover crops, brushpiles and wildflower strips can support generalist predator population, by providing additional food sources, nesting sites, and protection from pesticide exposure or extreme weather conditions.
Additionally, certain hoverfly species also need access to water for breeding. Incorporating water features such as shallow 'hoverfly' ponds, can bolster populations.
Excessive use of pesticides can be detrimental to hoverfly populations and their effectiveness as biological control agents. Consider adopting integrated pest management (IPM) practices, which involve using pesticides judiciously and as a last resort. Targeted application of pesticides, avoiding broad-spectrum ones, and selecting insecticides that have minimal impact on non-target organisms can help preserve hoverfly populations.
Top 5 things to know about hoverflies