Hover’s no bother
It masquerades as a wasp, but the hoverfly is a pollinator whose larvae gobble aphids... and it won’t sting you!
EVERYBODY’S complaining about wasps – they seem to be everywhere. They’re annoying, attacking us while we are eating and causing strangers to stand up during outdoor pub lunches and wildly flap their arms about. Wasps are looking for sugar and if they don’t get it from our picnics, they’ll look to our fruit trees, causing damage to ripening fruit. Earlier on in the year they are not so visible as they search for animal protein, and in the process eat aphids and other garden pests. While they are beneficial to gardeners in this respect as well as being pollinators, in general due to their painful stings, they are not a species most of us want to attract to our plots. Hoverflies, on the other hand, are good news. They look just like wasps and bees but in fact they don’t sting at all. This is nature’s way of protecting the hoverfly from its predators such as birds, which mistake them for stinging insects. There’s even one called the hornet hoverfly but it’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing and won’t bite! So it’s safe to encourage them to your plot and there are some very good reasons to do so. The larvae of many hoverflies do an excellent job of gobbling up aphids which cause so much damage to crops, and the adults will pollinate our flowers. So whether you grow roses or tomatoes, it’s a good idea to include flowering plants that will attract hoverflies. Unlike bees or moths that have long tubes to suck in nectar, hoverflies have small mouths so find it easier to get pollen and nectar from more dainty flowers. Umbellifers such as fennel, dill, angelica, parsley, sweet cicely, cow parsley and anthriscus are all ideal and make great companion plants for the veg plot.
Members of the daisy family, such as the bright orange flowers of calendula and tagetes, will attract them, as well as single flowered dahlias, eupatorium, alyssum and cornflowers. Even a patch of unmown lawn will contain daisies to support this and other beneficial insects. Some species of hoverfly need water to lay their eggs, which they would naturally do either in stagnant pools of water, rot holes or pools of water in old trees. You can mimic this environment simply with a tray of water and some leaf litter, left in a corner of the garden during their breeding season from May to October. Finally, avoid using insecticides. Hoverflies will lay eggs close to aphid populations so if you spray off the aphid population early, hoverflies will seek better places to reproduce and they won’t be around to help you when aphids are at their peak. Last weekend, the National Botanic Garden of Wales held its Pollinator Festival. It’s a centre of world-leading pollinator research near Carmarthen, and home to approximately half a million honey bees in its Bee Garden, a kaleidoscope of tropical butterflies in the Butterfly House, as well as thousands of insect pollinator species. So the Botanic Garden is a great place to visit and learn about bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and a host of other pollinator species. For further information phone 01558 667149 or visit botanic garden. wales. Pollinating insects are in decline but the web of gardens that criss-cross the British Isles can help make all the difference to their survival.
Some species need water to lay their eggs, typically in stagnant pools of water
Pollinator: A hoverfly is drawn to a colourful aster Monch flower
A hoverfly collects pollen from the yellow stamen of a bright pink Dog Rose
The larvae of many hoverflies do an excellent job at eating aphids
A hoverfly sizes up a Leucanthemum, a genus of flowering plants in the aster family, Asteraceae
Unpopular: The more muscular wasp