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!

Gloucestershire Echo - - YOUR GARDEN -

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

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