Back in early August, I came across this Insect hovering over a Black-eyed Susan flower in our garden. It was feeding on nectar from the flower. The insect looked like a Yellowjacket but upon taking a closer look, I could tell it was not, due to its body shape (having one pair of wings, and markings close, but not exactly like a Yellowjacket). The “hovering” was also a clue it wasn’t a Yellowjacket. My thought was, it was a member of the Hover Flies, but which one?
My research turned up the Yellowjacket Hover Fly, also known as the “Virginia Flower Fly.” The insect is about 3/4 inch to 7/8 inch in size. It ranges from Ontario to Minnesota, eastward and south to Florida, Texas and Colorado. It can be seen from mid-Summer to Fall, depending on the region, i.e., June-August in Oklahoma and May-November in North Carolina.
This Hover Fly flies aggressively and, by its buzzing, acts like a hornet. It also has a habit of hovering in front of a person and is said to be good luck if you can get it to perch on your finger! Note – – this is very difficult to do!
- Yellow and orange-banded
- Abdomen twice as long as thorax
- Black bands across upper surface of thorax
- Yellow head
- Reddish eyes
- Yellowish-brown legs
- Smoky wings
Though the fly may act like a hornet or Yellow Jacket, it is harmless. Adults are active during the day and feed on nectar of flowers. They can be found resting on low shrubs and other vegetation. It is believed larvae develop in rotting wood in tree holes.
Bugguide.net, Cotinus, Durham County, NC: http://bugguide.net/node/view/7713
Bottom photo, Jefferson Davis Community College: http://wildflowers.jdcc.edu/Yellowjacket_Hover_Fly.html
Research References / Resources:
National Wildlife Federation’s Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America, by Arthur V. Evans
BugGuide.net, species Milesia virginiensis – Yellowjacket Hover Fly
Author: Jim Revell, Bedford Extension Master Gardener
Source: Sep 2017_Yellowjacket Hover Fly
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Get to know your insect neighbors! As always, feel free to contact your local Extension Master Gardeners with questions or concerns you may have about insects in your area.