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5 hoverfly facts

Black and yellow means bee, right?

Not always!

A lot of insects are black and yellow and yet aren’t bees, and a lot of bees aren’t even black and yellow. Native bees can be(e) blue, red, metallic green, brown — tons of different colors.

One insect that mimics bees and is often mistaken for a bee is a hoverfly.

Photo of a hoverfly on a white flower

1. Hoverflies have different bodies than bees.

Hoverflies can be told from bees in one simple way — they only have one pair of wings. Bees have four wings, and hoverflies only have two wings.

Hoverflies also don’t have a stinger. They like to feed on human sweat, so they sometimes are mistaken for sweat bees, but these flower flies can’t sting.

2. Hoverflies are still pollinators.

Although not a bee, hoverflies are still great pollinators, and most of them drink nectar with a proboscis.

As they drink nectar, they also pollinate. Most are generalists, meaning they will visit flowers of any type, while some are specialists and stick to flowers in a certain species.

Some greenhouses even breed hoverflies for use in pollinating peppers or to help plants produce seeds for seed banks.

Photo of hoverfly on pink flower

3. Hoverflies love aphids.

Some hoverflies are also important in helping keep aphid numbers down. About 40 percent of hoverfly species have larvae that eat soft-bodied insects such as aphids, and they use sharp mouthparts to suck aphids dry. A study by the University of Florida actually found high hoverfly larval populations can reduce aphid populations by 70-100 percent. Each larvae can each as many as 30 aphids per day.

4. They’re known by other names.

Hoverflies are also called flower flies or syrphid flies.

5. Hoverflies are found worldwide.

There are about 6,000 species of hoverflies throughout the world and about 900 in North America. They are found on every continent except Antarctica.

 

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