Paul Leyland – The Long Hoverfly

The English name for this hoverfly describes it perfectly. Although the fly is only small, 10mm, the long thin body is instantly recognisable. The fly’s Latin name is Sphaerophoria scripta, which probably explains why it needs an easy English name. It’s a Latin name that is easily remembered in print but one I’ve never heard anyone say out loud. I think I’d need a Latin dictionary to even start to think how to pronounce it.

The Sphaerophoria genus of hoverflies is a great example of how difficult identification of insects can be. This genus has eleven different species in Britain and it is only the male S. scripta which can be confidently identified from a photograph. All males and females have long thin bodies and yellow bands or spots across the abdomen. The males of the other species need microscopic examination of their genitals to ID and none of the females can be told apart. Going back to the photograph, I can tell it’s a male because the eyes meet at the top of the head and it must then be S. scripta because, when at rest with its wings closed, the fly’s body will protrude past the end of the wings. Hence the Long Hoverfly.

Going back to simpler things it’s a very common hoverfly and can be seen in most parts of Britain, except North West Scotland. It flies from April to November and is mostly seen on flowers, so should still be around in gardens. This one dates back to the end of July.