A beautiful female hoverfly (possibly Syrphus ribesii) spent the afternoon drinking nectar from the yellow florets of our Mexican Sunflowers. Also known as the Flower Fly and Syrphid Fly, hoverflies are members of the Syrphidae family of insects. As their name suggest, they hover over pollen- and nectar-rich flowers.
Hoverflies are a wonderful addition to the organic, pesticide-free garden. Hoverfly larvae are aphid eating machines and they are also the second best pollinator, after bees. Female hoverflies lay their eggs in the midst of aphid colonies. When the eggs emerge, food for the larvae is readily available. A single hoverfly larvae can eat 400 to 500 aphids during the two-week period before pupating into an adult.
When flies look like bees – Hoverflies look similar to bees, with large bulbous eyes and black and yellow striped abdomens. Their color and buzzing sound mimics many species of bees and wasps, which helps ward off predators. Hoverflies are perfectly harmless and neither sting nor bite. You can tell the difference between a male and a female hoverfly by looking at the eyes. The eyes of the male are holoptic, which means they touch, whereas the eyes of the female are separated.
We have a colony of aphids on our Whorled Milkweed. I hope she stopped by to deposit her eggs there!
To attract hoverflies to your garden, plant plenty of nectar-rich flowers. One study showed some species prefer white and yellow flowers. Although the ray flowers of the Tithonia are orange, the disc florets at the center of the flower from where she was drinking nectar are yellow. Native plants that attract hoverflies include Lanceleaf Coreopsis, Common Yarrow, and Purple Coneflower. Hoverflies also love blossoms of herbs such as oregano, dill, parsley, coriander, and fennel.