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Hoverfies are so called because they are able to hover in mid-flight. There are many different species, often looking like bees or wasps for self-protection. Unlike bees and wasps which have two pairs of wings and a distinct 'waist' where their thorax meets their abdomen, hoverflies, like all flies, only have one pair of wings, no waist, and no sting.

Adults feed on nectar like bees, so are valuable as pollinators. The young of many species feed on aphids, so it is a good idea to try to attract them into your garden. Some, however, like the bumblebee hoverfly, lay their eggs in bee or wasp nests, where they scavenge within the nest, and one, the narcissus fly is regarded as a garden pest, because its young eat bulbs.

Hoverflies vary considerably in size. The largest, like both the two last mentioned, are as big as bumblebees and look very similar, whereas the smallest, like the marmalade hoverfly, are only a few mm long.

The dronefly, which mimics the honey bee, is one of the commonest hoverflies, appearing from late spring and throughout the summer wherever there are flowers. Another common species, the banded hoverfly, is very wasp-like.

Photo © Tony Gunton