Marmalade Hoverfly - Episyrphus balteatus

To identify flies to family level use a simple wing venation key such as A Key to the Families of British Diptera, an AIDGAP by D. Unwin, published by the FSC and available as a free download (scroll down to the titles list) or a more detailed key which includes many physical characters such as The European Families of the Diptera by P. Oosterbroek. The expert dipterists on the DipteraInfo forum are also very happy to identify, often to species level, from good photographs.

Probably the most common hoverfly in the world, this species can be seen in any month of the year (numbers peak July-August). The photo below was taken in February and the hoverfly is taking advantage of a sunny day to drink nectar from an early flowering plant, Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria. The species is quite variable in terms of the amount of black on the abdomen and how dark or bright overall that they appear. There are double black bands on 2 of the abdomenal segments, which is unique amongst hoverfly patterning. This hoverfly is about 10-15mm long and is strongly migratory. Males can often be observed hovering in a shaft of sunlight in woodland.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:
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