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Fly that pretends to buzz like a bee

Adult hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen.

Adult hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen.

Hoverflies, as their name suggests, are known for hovering in front of flowers.

Many adult hoverflies feed on nectar and pollen while the larvae feed on a variety of animal and plant material.

In some species the larvae are insectivores. These are now being used to control plant-sucking insects such as aphids which can cause widespread damage to agricultural crops.

Hoverflies are found on all continents except Antarctica.

At least 6,000 species have been identified and named. Of these, about 30 have been recorded in Malta but I would not be surprised if more are discovered in the future.

Hoverflies rely on mimicry to protect themselves from predators.

They resemble dangerous insects especially bees and wasps and even hover and buzz like them. Their mimicry is so good that predators mistake them for dangerous insects and leave them alone even though they do not sting.

Hoverflies are so confident of their mimicry that, unlike most other insects, they do not fly away when approached and one can get many opportunities to get close-up pictures of them.

Pictures can be useful when trying to identify this group of insects as, unless one is a specialist, it can be very difficult to tell species apart in the field.

Many species of hoverflies can be seen on flowers on warm spring days but even at this time of the year one can observe a number of them feeding on pollen produced by autumn and early winter flowering plants such as daisies which are already in flower.

Common species in Malta include the drone-fly (dubbiena dakar), the lesser drone-fly (dubbiena ta’ l-għajnejn irrigati), the common yellow-banded hoverfly (dubbiena żunżanija) and the slender hover-fly (dubbiena tal-fjuri).

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