By Elizabeth Mann
*Photos Copyright Elizabeth Mann 2009
This is a Hover fly I discovered resting on my Passion vine plant. Hover Flies are common throughout the world and can be found on every continent except Antarctica. In America they are also called Flower Flies. This name fits them well because they are often found hovering around flowers to drink the sweet nectar. The way a Hover Fly flies is similar to a Hummingbird. They can hover in one place while their tiny wings beat hundreds of times a second.
After doing research, I discovered Hover flies come in many sizes and colors. Some mimic the appearance of bumblebees and wasps. If you catch one they will pretend to sting you in an attempt to get away. Don’t worry though these little creatures are harmless and are greatly appreciated in your garden. There are over 110 species of Hover Fly larvae that eat aphids and plant lice.
Like butterflies, Hover Flies start out as eggs, hatch into hungry larvae, make a pupa, than emerge as adults. Thankfully for gardeners these larvae consume lots of plant sucking aphids. When I first discovered this tiny creature, I was not sure what it was. After watching it suck up a aphid through its snout and searching the internet to confirm my theory I realized it was a Hover Fly larvae. The larvae in the picture is almost fully grown and will soon make a pupa.
Hover Fly Emerges
The hover fly larvae inside has now changed into an adult. you can see its eyes through the chrysalis. It won’t be long before it emerges.
After emerging, its wings are not fully opened and they are crumbled. It must dry them like a butterfly. After its wings are dry, it will begin hovering. The sound they make is similar to bees buzzing. My mom was surprised when she heard buzzing noises coming from my Hover Flies that I was keeping in the laundry room (which I use as a nursery for insects). It was a lot of buzzing because six Hover Flies came out on the same day!
You can tell this is a female Hover Fly because there is a space between its eyes. Female Hover flies also have a more pointed abdomen then males.
Its wings are fully expanded now. The Hover fly’s wings look like glass cut in different shapes then glued back together. In a couple of hours it will be ready for flight and begin this life cycle again.