Hoverfly Identification

It's time for a new identification!  Today it's another insect.

Helophilus (fasciatus?)

Scientific Name:  Helophilus (fasciatus?)

Common Name:  Hoverfly, damselfly, syrphid fly

Color:  Yellow thorax with vertical black stripes, abdomen has black horizontal stripes

Size:  about 1/2"

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Bee mimic

Looks like a bee, doesn't it?  No?  Maybe a wasp?  Yeah, I thought so, too, at first.  That's because the helophilus genus mimics bees and wasps as a defense against predators.  Who wants to get bit or stung, after all?  It's better to leave this guy alone, and go after something a little less risky.

Helophilus means "sun lover".  Indeed, these flies come out in force when the sun is high in the sky during the spring and summer, and they forage for pollen while basking in its warmth.

I should point out that I'm actually undecided as to which species of Helophilus this particular hoverfly is a member of.  My gut tells me that it's fasciatus, but it could also be hybridus or pendulus.  All three hoverfly species have been found in this state, and all three look very similar.

At times like this I really wish I got my degree in biology, rather than geology!

Perhaps the easiest way to confirm that this is a hoverfly, rather than a bee or a wasp, is that it has two wings, rather than four.  You'll never find a bee or a wasp with only two wings.  The hoverfly is considered a 'true fly' because of this lack of four wings.

While you can't tell the hoverfly's gender from this picture, their genders are generally very easy to determine.  It's all in the eyes.  A male hoverfly has large eyes that just about touch each other.  The female, on the other hand, has a larger space between her eyes.  This spacing of the eyes actually effects flight patterns, with the male having a better ability to judge distances.

I work very hard to try to bring bees to my yard, complete with having a wild area set aside.  Naturally, making a yard bee friendly also means making it friendly to other wildlife.  That being said, my yard is very friendly toward hoverflies!  That's ok, though, because these insects are a very good addition to any garden, as they're great pollinators, and work tirelessly.

Further, hoverflies are very docile creatures.  It's perfectly safe to allow one to land on you without any fear of getting bitten.  Good to know, right?

Even though it's a fly, I'm glad to have this insect in my yard.  Docile, brightly colored, and a happy pollinator...

What's not to like?