Eristalis tenax – the drone fly

The larvae of many hover flies are beneficial in the garden, because they feed on aphids. Eristalis tenax, the drone fly, is one of our commonest hover flies, but its larvae aren’t so useful: they are the so-called  “rat tailed maggots”, living in water and feeding on microscopic things they find there.

You might see them sometimes, in a pool, or a forgotten bucket of water, with their “tails” poking up to the surface of the water.

Eristalis tenax - the drone fly

Nevertheless, even if the larvae aren’t particularly useful, the fly itself is still an important pollinator and a very welcome visitor.

Eristalis tenax - the drone fly - on a dandelion
Eristalis tenax – the drone fly – on a dandelion

Dandelions are great for attracting hover flies of many types, so it is worth keeping a few. If you’re worried about seeds, pick the flowers before they turn to seed-clocks and throw them in the bin, or on a fire, don’t put them in the compost heap!

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2 thoughts on “Eristalis tenax – the drone fly”

  1. I remember finding rat-tailed maggots when I was a kid. They lived in the black muck that formed near seeps and springs in the woods behind our house. Scary looking things but being interested in nature I looked them up and found out that they posed no danger. Still, I didn’t care to touch them or feel them under my feet as I squished through the mud.

  2. I like the warning ‘don’t put them in your compost heap’ 🙂
    It is hilarious how you end up spreading some of those plants with your compost while you had a hard time pulling them out in the first place 🙂 Like nettles e.g… 🙂

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