Hoverflies earn their stripes

Hoverfly
Hoverfly

Surely everyone is familiar with hoverflies?

Once upon a time such statements were true,but sadly I never cease to be amazed by how little Joe Public knows about the outdoors these days. However, that is bye the bye… back to hoverflies.

There are a few large bee and wasp-like members of that family known as the volucella hoverflies.

The one pictured here is Volucella Pellucens.

Maybe you have seen pictures or film of cleaner fish? These are fish which groom other fish by eating lice and flaking skin or scales from them. Larger fish seem to welcome this mutually beneficial arrangement.

It would seem social species of wasps and bees have the same arrangement on dry land with volucella hoverflies. It is amazing to watch a Volucella enter a wasp nest,walking straight past the sentries without them paying any attention, and certainly showing none of the aggression they would direct at you or me!

It turns out the grubs of volucella hoverflies act as cleaners in wasp and bee nests by eating prey remains and other debris. It seems if you can imagine a niche,there is some species evolved to fill it!

Certainly there are many smaller species of hoverfly whose wasp-like stripes are intended to fool birds into fearing a non-existent sting.

Equally there are those such as Volucella Pellucens whose stripes appear to be aimed at wasps and bees just as much as birds.

Isn’t nature amazing?

Volucella Pellucens is a hoverfly found in much of Europe, and across Asia to Japan. It is about 15–16 mm in length with a broad body. The mimicry of bees or wasps is to protect against falling prey to birds and other insectivores which avoid eating true wasps because of their stings.

George Hogg, Hogg Estate Services, Wildlife Management