Photo Credit: Curt Judy, UK

Hover Flies

Kelly Jackson
Christian County Extension Office

Hover Flies

When we think of flies, we generally think of a nuisance insect and one we could largely live without. But not all flies are bad and there are a few with truly beneficial attributes. Hover flies (also known as corn fly, helicopter fly or flower fly) are one group of beneficials found in Christian County.

They are called hover flies because of their ability to hover in midair by vibrating their wings very rapidly. Hover flies generally mimic bees and wasps and therefore often cause panic when encountered, but they do not bite or sting. Many people will incorrectly refer to them as “sweat bees,” which do exist and can sting. Sweat bees are much smaller and darker in color.

Hover flies are beneficial. They are significant pollinators and their larvae are essential predators of garden pests. Hover fly larvae are legless with a pointed head and broad tail end. The larvae love a good meal of aphids. Hover fly larva suck out the aphid juices and toss the exoskeleton. According to Cornell University each larva can consume 400 aphids before they become an adult fly.

Adult hover flys are attracted to white or yellow flowers with easy-to-access nectar and pollen. A few examples of plants that will attract hover flies are sweet alyssum, parsley, dill, yarrow, clover and buckwheat.
Their only negative quality is how they tend to congregate on people and resist any attempts at being shooed away. They are attracted to the salt in human sweat and will land on exposed skin. But remember, they are harmless!

If you find all this fascinating, join other gardeners in the Master Gardener Program. Training in Christian County starts September 11. Applications have been mailed out. Contact us for a copy at 270-886-6328.

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