Social Distancing Week 16. Syritta pipiens.
Paul writes: Syritta pipiens is one of the commonest garden hoverflies. It isn’t as obvious as lots of its bigger or more brightly coloured cousins but once you know what to look for spotting it is quite simple.
They’re about 7mm long, very narrow bodied with a rounded head and short antennae, quite dark until they fly then you will notice a couple of spots on the abdomen. The most obvious feature are the swollen thighs on the back legs. They usually rest with these stuck out at the side, so in spite of the small size the overall shape is quite distinctive. The other helpful characteristic is their behaviour. Syritta pipens are one of the most active hoverflies. The males are very territorial, so once they find a suitable patch will constantly be battling for position. This usually consists of hovering quite close to a flower head and darting in between blooms to chase other males off, whilst looking for a female. Females are content to sit on the flower head feeding.
You can find them on lots of different garden flowers. The one pictured is on an Astrantia. Each year in my garden this is a magnet for Syritta pipiens and several other small flies and bees. The hoverfly is common and widespread throughout the UK and will be found in most gardens, from the beginning of May through into autumn. At times it can be abundant if breeding conditions are right. The larvae live in wet decaying matter, such as compost.