What the Heck Is That?!?!

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This time of year, when temperatures are starting to increase and days are starting to lengthen, many insects are seen hovering around our homes, lawns, and gardens. On warm evenings you may see this insect congregating on sun-exposed siding and flowers. During the sweltering months of the summer, you may find this insect landing on your arms or legs to feed on your sweat. Do you think you know what insect is being described and is depicted below? Test your expertise with this installment of “What the Heck is That?!?!”

 

If you guessed syrphid fly or hover fly you are correct! Many syrphid fly adults (image above) are bee mimics. These flies hover around flowers like bees and some even have yellow and black stripes. One way to tell the two apart is by their wings. Syrphid flies are in the order Diptera with house flies and mosquitoes and have only one pair of wings. Bees, on the other hand, are in the order Hymenoptera with wasps and have two pairs of wings. Syrphid fly adults, like bees, feed on pollen and nectar and are active pollinators. These flies are often mistaken for sweat bees because they hover around people’s arms and legs.

Larval syrphid flies (image below) are maggot-like in appearance. Although they are blind and have no legs, these larvae are ferocious predators. Syrphid fly larvae have chewing mouthparts that are used to devour soft-bodied insects. Aphids are one of the syrphid fly larvae’s favorite prey. One syrphid fly larvae can consume hundreds of aphids over the course of its development to adulthood. Keep an eye out for these insect allies in your garden this summer!

Syrphid fly larvae

For more information on syrphid flies and to stay informed on current insect facts can be found in our syrphid flies publication. If you have content (images, ideas, etc.) you’d like to have featured in the upcoming installments of “What the Heck is That?!?!” email or call Adam Formella at adam_formella@ncsu.edu or 252-232-2262.