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fly Drone Flies

Identify It >   Fly Section >   Hoverflies Section >   Drone Flies >

Scientific name:  Eristalis tenax

Size:  Wingspan approximately 15mm

Distribution:  Found throughout the U.K.

Months seen:  March to November

Life span:  Up to one year. Mated females overwinter and lay eggs the following spring

Habitat:  Meadows, hedgerows, woodland edges and gardens.  Look for them on sunny days close to yellow flowers

Food:  Nectar and pollen

Special features:  Drone flies look similar to honeybees (hence the 'drone' name), but they lack the narrow waist between the thorax and abdomen.  They also have just two wings, where the honey bee has four.

The body is brown to black in color, quite hairy, with varying amounts of orange/yellow markings on the side of the second and third abdominal segments.

The males have large eyes which meet in the centre, while the females have smaller eyes with a gap in between.

The aquatic larvae of droneflies are known as Rat-tailed maggots.  They develop in stagnant water, animal faeces and rotting carcasses.  The more putrid and foul-smelling it is, the more the larvae seem to like it.

Each larva is equipped with an extendible tail called a 'siphon'.  This tail, which can extend to about 5cm (2 inches), is used as a snorkel to breath air from the surface of the liquid while the larva feeds below.

When they are fully grown, the larvae leave the water to pupate.  The pupae are a reddish-brown colour.  At the front are some horn-like projections, and the tail often curves up and over the back of the body.

The photos below show two more drone fly species; Eristalis pertinax and Eristalis horticola.

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