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Syrphid Fly

TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE
by Nanette Londeree, Consulting Rosarian

Have you ever seen what appears to be a small bee hovering above your roses like a tiny hummingbird? If so, you are fortunately looking at a syrphid fly, otherwise known as a flower fly or hover fly. These little critters look like a small bee or wasp, and are one of the "good guys" in the garden. They are common and natural enemies of aphids and other small, soft bodied, slow-moving insects.

The syrphid fly is about 3/8 - 5/8 inches in length, shiny with a black abdomen and yellow or white bands and clear wings. One thing that distinguishes the syrphid fly from a bee is that the fly only has a single pair of wings while the bee has two pair of wings. They are strong fliers and hover over flowers as their primary diet for adults is pollen and nectar. Some flowers that are especially attractive to flower flies include wild carrot or Queen Anneís lace, wild mustard, sweet alyssum, coriander, dill and other small flowered herbs. They are usually most noticeable in the later half of the growing season, usually after aphid infestations have been well established. They donít often get credit for the effect they have on aphid colonies because they are not as conspicuous as lady bugs.

The larvae of the fly are the predators in the garden feeding on aphids, small caterpillars, thrips and other small insects. One syrphid fly larvae can consume as many as 400 aphids in their short lifetime! The larvae are about one-half inches long, greenish, gray or light brown and somewhat translucent. The eggs are white ovals that the female lays singly or in groups among aphid colonies on leaves. The larvae that hatch in 2 - 3 days are small and legless and look somewhat slug-like. The larvae complete their development in two to three weeks, and overwinter as pupae. During the growing season, adults emerge in one to two weeks. Generation time depends on temperature, species, and availability of food - there may be three to seven generations produced each year. Be on the lookout for these interesting little good guys of the rose garden!

Photo by: Bastian "Bart" M. Drees
Photo courtesy of: Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University


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Last Modified: 08/06/2013