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Syrphid flies

Quick facts

  • Syrphid flies are also known as hover or flower flies.
  • Some adult flies can mimic bees.
  • The larval stage is an important early and late-season aphid predator. A single larva can feed on dozens of aphids a day.

How to tell syrphid flies from other insects

Four syrphids feeding on a flower.
Several syrphid flies feed together

Adults

  • Adults are similar in size and color to wasps and bees. They mimic these insects as a form of protection from predators.
  • Syrphid flies do not bite or sting.
  • You can tell syrphid flies apart from wasps and bees by looking closely at the wings. You will only see one pair of wings, while wasps and bees have two pairs.
  • Adults have large eyes.
  • Adults are quick and agile fliers and are often seen near flowers.

Larvae

  • Larvae can be green, yellow or brown.
  • Larvae look like slugs or caterpillars and have a tapered body.
  • They are very active, moving around plants in search of prey.
Adult syrphid fly on the center of an orange flower.
Adults can resemble bees
Syrphid fly hovering over white daisies with yellow centers.
Some syrphids have narrow bodies
A yellow syrphid fly larvae feeding on an aphid.
A yellow syrphid fly larvae feeding on an aphid

Biology

  • Different species spend the winter in different ways. Most spend the winter in protected areas, like leaf piles or brush, as pupae or larvae.
  • Eggs are laid near a food source, and are most often seen near large groups of aphids. The eggs resemble a grain of rice.
  • Larvae hatch and feed on aphids. Depending on the species, they eat 100 to 400 aphids.
  • Adults emerge and feed on nectar or pollen.

Promoting syrphid flies in gardens and farms

Many aphids on a stem with one aphid larva feeding on them.
Syrphid fly larva attacking aphids

To support syrphid flies in your yard, garden, or farm, think about ways to provide them with a variety of food and habitat.

  • Have consistently flowering plants in your space. Providing season-long food sources will encourage many beneficial insects to be in your garden. They especially love white, compound flowers.
  • Allow some level of pests in the garden.
  • Syrphid flies do not fly in windy conditions. Windbreaks can protect plants and provide important habitat for syrphid flies and other beneficial insects.
  • Flowering cover crops attract and support adult syrphid flies.
  • Limit pesticide applications. Many insecticides are not selective, meaning they will kill both pests, beneficial insects, and other insects. If you plan on using an insecticide, look for a selective insecticide that will not kill lady beetles.

Author: Marissa Schuh, horticulture IPM Extension educator

Reviewed in 2022

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