Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Hoverfly Magic

You might have seen hoverflies in your garden hovering and darting about while feeding at flower blossoms. Hoverflies have a unique ability to hover, suspended in midair like miniature helicopters! They can also fly back wards. 
Toxomerus geminatuson Phytolacca americana*
These remarkable little critters have evolved to mimic the characteristics of bees and wasps to keep birds and other prey from eating them. Humans see the yellow and black stripes and stay away, too. However, they are all stripes and no sting! It's safe to take a closer look at these incredible creatures. Once you get closer to them you can see that those warning stripes are actually a beautifully designed pattern.
resting on Gaura lindheimeri

When not hovering or darting about they can be seen resting on leaves and petals of plants. That's one of the best times to get a photo. I take dozens of shots to get one that highlight their characteristics. The above photo is one of my favorites and it clearly shows the hoverfly's characteristic short antenna. If I didn't know before that this wasn't a bee I would know now, flies have stubby little antennas! (more on them at We can't all be pretty pollinators)
Hoverflies are important pollinators, but, when you look closely at them you can see they have neither a pollen basket like the bumblebee or pollen attracting hairy legs of the honeybee. They have no nest to tend and are not responsible for feeding their larvae, instead, they lay their eggs near a good food source and let nature take its course. The next time you spot an aphid colony and reach for the hose, stop  and check to see if there is a small slug like critter in the midst of the colony, that would be a hoverfly larva. A good hoverfly population can control 70% or more of the aphids in a garden.
Hoverflies have only one set of exquisite wings
The next time you're in the garden look for small hovering and darting critters, note the yellow and black warning stripes; enormous eyes; stubby antenae; and, a single pair of exquisite wings.  

Be glad they've taken up residence, you're doing the right things for them and they're doing the right things for your garden!

Of course you all know the one of the very best things you can do for pollinators is to never, ever, ever, ever , I mean never, use pesticides!


* found in Eastern Canada south to Texas 

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Love those hoverflies. Mother Nature knows how to take care of everyone, giving them just what they need.

  2. Loved this post Gail! I think Hoverflies are so cool ~~Dee

  3. Those wings are exquisite. Hurrah for hoverflies.

  4. They're cool to see in the garden, fascinating to watch them fly :)

  5. You must have taken lots of photos, then, to get all these awesome ones! ;-) Thanks for the information. I didn't know that about the young eating aphids. I am tickled to have hoverflies and other pollinators here. I am actually more able to get closer to the bees and wasps, though, because they do not take off as quickly as the hoverflies do.

  6. Great shots, and important information, thanks for both! I didn't know that hoverflies were carnivores. The wings in that last shot -- Oh My! Like a fairy.

  7. Those little rascals do get your attention.

  8. They're so entertaining to watch! Watching hoverflies, dragonflies, swallows, bumblebees, and hummingbirds is a great lesson in flight techniques. I could sit for hours watching them, spellbound.

  9. Gorgeous photos. I have loads of hoverflies in my garden - thankfully! - and love to watch them. I saw quite a few (at least I think they were hoverflies, they could have been some other kind of tiny pollinator) around the flowers on Teucrium chamaedrys (wall germander) yesterday.

    Despite never spraying any pesticides, I have to admit I suffered somewhat of an aphid infestation on my Lonicera sempervirens (coral honeysuckle) this year. It took several weeks for natural predators (ladybugs etc.) to show up and get the situation under control, the vine still isn't looking good (many flowers and leaves distorted). I wonder if it's sick? Maybe I should try cutting it way back.

    Well, anyway, I've gone off on a tangent, when all I wanted to say was, "Yay! Hoverflies!!" :)

  10. Hoverflies are one of my favorite pollinators and I love finding them in the garden....lots of great facts here Gail!

  11. Lots of hoverflies here, with quite a large range in sizes. Your last picture is exquisite!

  12. I see these lovely critters often, but had no idea of their rainbow wings! How charming. What a great shot.

  13. I have all over my coneflowers what might be some type of hoverfly. They look like miniature honeybees. They get those pollen sacs just loaded with pollen.

  14. Gail girl ! Hello there !
    You are taking stunning photos, I really mean that .. and I do understand that it takes dozens of pictures to find the `right`one .. I have seen these amazing little creatures in my garden too and appreciate how hard they work with such benefits to all of our gardens and food crops.
    There isn`t a time that I am not amazed by something in my garden when I have a chance to be in it .. I love it all!
    Take care
    Joy : )


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson