Can you believe that this little creature is a stingless hoverfly?
The hornet mimic hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) mimics the scary (but actually quite gentle) hornet, but is in fact a flower fly, or in the UK we call them hoverflies, because they are flies (diptera – two wings) and they hover.
This one is a female. How can I tell? Well you’ll love this – well maybe the female readers will – it’s because there is a gap between its eyes on its head. If the big eyes (and that’s the giveaway that it’s a fly) join in the middle then it’s a male. But when there is a space there between the eyes, like this one, it’s a female. Why? Because the female has a bigger brain! Obviously!
Anyway, I digress.
Hoverflies are common garden visitors. Feeding on the nectar from our flowers. Many hoverflies are bee mimics, sporting the lairy yellow and black stripey livery to fool predators into thinking they might sting. They can’t and don’t. And as you can see the hornet mimic hoverfly looks like a hornet.
Hoverflies are important garden pollinators and often underrated. They often have insectivorous larvae and the adults are an important layer in the food chain because they are eaten by birds, reptiles, amphibians and other predatory insects. With around 270 different species in the UK the variety is fascinating and even includes the hornet mimic hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), a large spectacular insect that has migrated to our shores from Europe. Its offspring live and feed on the debris inside the nests of social wasps, another reason to leave wasp nests alone.