Monday, September 21, 2009

Hover Flies in My Garden

Hover Fly (resized)

After I started gardening I began discovering new creatures that I never knew about before. My newest discovery is a Hover fly I saw resting on my Passionvine plant. In America they are also called Flower Flies. This name fits them well because they are often found hovering around flowers to drink the sweet nectar. The way a Hover fly flies is similar to a Hummingbird. They can hover in one place while their tiny wings beat countless times.

After doing research, I discovered Hover flies come in many sizes and colors. Some mimic the appearance of bumblebees and wasps. If you catch one they will pretend to sting you in an attempt to get away. Don’t worry though these little creatures are harmless and are greatly appreciated in my garden. There are over 110 species of Hover fly larvae that eat aphids and plant lice.

Hoverfly larvae 

Like butterflies Hover flies start out as eggs, hatch into hungry larvae, make a pupa, than emerge as adults. Thankfully for gardeners these larvae consume lots of plant sucking aphids. When I first discovered this tiny creature, I was not sure what it was. After watching it suck up a aphid through its snout and searching the internet to confirm my theory I realized it was a Hover fly larvae. The larvae in the picture is almost fully grown and will soon enter the next stage.

Hoverfly pupa in milkweed Hiding in all these aphids is a Hover fly pupa. Inside it will change  into a Hover fly adult.

Hover Fly pupa (croped)

I love this close up picture because you can see the stripes of the Hover fly through the pupa! It was worth the torture of my major aphid problem to be able to watch the lifecycle of this amazing creature. After the Hover flies made their pupas, I had to trim back my Milkweeds before the aphids killed the plants! I did my best to find all of the Hover fly pupa. I put them in a container so they could emerge.

If you have a aphid problem like me another way to kill aphids is to take a hose with a very powerful spray nozzle a knock the aphids off the plant. Also using your fingers to wipe of the aphids as you spray helps. 

Hover fly Emerges

hover fly pupa eyes are visible

The hover fly larvae inside has now changed into an adult. you can see its eyes through the chrysalis.

hover fly wings crumbled

It just emerged and its wings are not fully opened yet. It must dry them like a butterfly. This is a female Hover fly because there is a space between its eyes.hover fly emerged

Its wings are fully expanded now. The Hover fly’s wings look like  glass cut in different shapes then glued back together. In a couple of hours it will be ready for flight and begin this lifecycle again.


  1. Great photos, Elizabeth! That's pretty cool that you were able to photograph one that hasn't even expanded its wings. When is your next article coming out in Costa Rica? ~Edith

  2. Although I have always encouraged other beneficial insects in my garden, I am just learning about hover flies as another 'helper'. Thank you for your article and photos.