Great Pied Hoverfly

By Ian Bushell

This is a Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) so named for its black and white colouring. It is a new species for our lists, seen and photographed in the reserve on Tuesday, July 13th.  

Also called the Pellucid Hoverfly, it is one of the largest flies in the UK and broadly mimics bees and wasps as a form of defence.  They live in woodland edges and hedgerows and the adults are active  from May to October feeding on nectar and pollen from a wide variety of plants. They do favour white flowers, in particular bramble blossom and white umbellifers.

[1] Bramble blossom (archive) [2] Volucella pellucens by S. Rae CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons [3] Hogweed, an umbellifer (archive)

The female locates and enters, usually underground, a common wasps’ paper nest and lays her eggs there.  Amazingly she does not seem to be recognised or attacked.  The eggs hatch and the larvae fall to the floor where they feed on the debris and detritus, grubs and dead wasps and anything else that is left behind when the wasps abandon the nest in the autumn.

When fully developed the larvae leave the nest and pupate in the ground nearby, emerging the following year during May to June.

Header image by Ian Bushell (13.07.21 SCP-NR)

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