Their often colorful bodies resemble bees and wasps, and like bees and wasps, their pollinating activities break the traditional fly mold and place them squarely in the beneficial insect category.
Gardeners and farmers have long celebrated syrphid flies as beneficial insects because their larvae consume aphids.
With over seventy five different genera and hundreds of species, identification of any one species can be difficult.
Syrphid identification involves matching thorasic and adominal patterns to a genus, and hopefully species.
With a few species, eye color and face color can be a good ID clues. A few species have a distinct hair pattern on the abdomen. In some cases, a close up of the wing pattern also helps.
Types of Flies
Types of Insects
The Syrphini tribe, probably the largest in the Syrphid fly family, consists of about twenty different genera.
The top picture shows one species from the Syrphus genus, the namesake for both the family and tribe. Syrphus populations abound along both North American coasts, making them some of the most common syrphid species in high population residential areas.
A rounded and distinctly patterned abdomen provide the first ID clues for all Syrphus species.
Eristalis, perhaps the best known of the syrphid fly genera, consists of over one dozen North American species.
The second picture in the top frame shows Eristalis tenax, a very common species, also known by the common name drone fly.
Drone flies can almost anywhere flowers grow. South of the border, Eristalis species continue to be documented.
One lesser known Eristalis fact... Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen had Eristalis species named after them: Bill Gates' flower fly (Eristalis gatesi); Paul Allen's flower fly (Eristalis alleni).
Allograpta micrura, the first image in the gourp, lives in western North America from Canada to Mexico.
The thin body and yellow spots at the bottom of the abdomen are good field identification clues.
Meliscaeva cinctella, picture two, is the sole representative of its genus in North America.
Specimens have been documented on both coast of the United States, including Alaska. There is also a European population.
Sphaerophoria, a long name for a genus of often small, thin syrphid flies, consists of some sixteen different species.
Sphaerophoria body patterns change from male to female as well as among the species.
A few additional syrphid genera, Toxomerus, for example, also are characterized by their diminutive size and thin bodies.
© 2006-2013 Patricia A. Michaels.