University of Maryland Extension

Meet a Pollinator: Flower Fly

flower fly on orange flower
Flower fly
Photo: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Flower fly (Family: Syrphidae)

  • Often confused with sweat bees, they are stingless flies that mimic the appearance of small bees in order to avoid predators.

  • Frequently found swarming around – and sometimes landing on - humans, likely attracted to moisture and salts on our skin.

  • Exhibit a characteristic flight pattern they hover and can abruptly change position, earning them the nickname "hoverflies".

  • Adults are mainly nonselective pollinators, feeding on nectar and pollen from a variety of plants and agriculturally important crops including strawberries, peppers, pears, and almonds.

  • Generally, prefer white and yellow-colored flowers and due to their short mouthparts, most also prefer flowers with a more open shape. They allow the nectar and pollen to be more easily accessed.

  • Some species appear to be less affected by land use changes than many bee species. They are better able to use resources from highly modified habitats – including agricultural fields.

  • The larval stages of many Syrphid species are also beneficial in the landscape, preying on soft-bodied pest insects like aphids and thrips.

By University of Maryland graduate student Veronica Yurchak. February 2020

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