Bug of the Day: Hover Fly

Above: Hover flies are useful in biological control because their young (larvae) love to eat aphids, which are a pest. UF/IFAS photo by Paul Choate.

Have you ever seen something flying around that had black and yellow stripes like a bee but also looked like a fly? It could have been a hover fly, also called a flower fly, or syrphid fly.

The hover fly is commonly found in Florida. They not only help pollinate plants but can also help control aphids on many crops, including citrus, tropical fruits, corn, cotton, and vegetables. That’s because when hover flies are young (larvae) they eat aphids—a lot of aphids. A large group of larvae can eat 70 to 100 percent of aphids in an area!

The hover fly gets its name from its ability to fly or “hover” backwards, something only a few other insects can do.

More hover fly facts:

  • Hover flies are found in most of the continental United States. In north Florida, they are most common during spring and summer, but you’ll see them year-round in south Florida.
  • Adults are only six or seven millimeters long (about the same size as the round part of a crayon).
  • Adult hover flies drink nectar from flowers and will also feed on the honeydew that comes from aphids.
  • Hover flies are sometimes confused with fruit flies, which are not beneficial insects to humans.
  • The eyes of male hover flies are holoptic, which means they actually meet at the top of the head.

Learn more about the hover fly at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in342.