Whitecross Green Wood, Oxfordshire
(De Geer, 1776)
Episyrphus balteatus, sometimes called the marmalade hoverfly, is a relatively small hoverfly (9–12 mm) of the Syrphidae family, widespread throughout the Palaearctic region, which covers Europe, North Asia, and North Africa. The upper side of the abdomen is patterned with orange and black bands. Two further identification characters are the presence of secondary black bands on the third and fourth dorsal plates and faint greyish longitudinal stripes on the thorax. Its color patterns may appear wasp-like to other animals, such as birds, protecting it from predation.
E. balteatus can be found throughout the year in various habitats, including urban gardens, visiting flowers for pollen and nectar. They often form dense migratory swarms, which may cause panic among people for their resemblance to wasps. It is among the very few species of flies capable of crushing pollen grains and feeding on them. The larva is terrestrial and feeds on aphids.
Female marmalade fly feeding on a Hebe speciosa flower
Close-up of the head sitting on a flower of a grey-haired rockrose (Cistus incanus): The fly head has a diameter of 0.1 in (2.5 mm).
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