A couple of weeks ago I did a blog about the delicate little Marmalade Hoverfly. So I felt I just had to show you this 'beast' I photographed in my garden yesterday.
At about 19mm long, this is Britain's largest resident hoverfly. A few people call it the Hornet Hoverfly, for rather obvious reasons, but most books stick to the Latin name - Volucella zonaria.
In fact, this particular individual has been roving my garden for at least several days now. Every morning, she sits in the same branch on the sheltered, east-facing side of a Leylandii tree to gain a bit of warmth from the early sun. And then for the rest of the day she comes down onto my Hemp-agrimony to have a good long drink of nectar.
For me, there are three fascinating things about her.
1) She will lay her eggs in wasp and Hornet nests, where her larvae will act as live-in cleaners, mopping up bits that the wasps have spilt
2) She is an urban garden specialist, rarely seen in the countryside, and most frequent in London. (I'm afraid this is another one of those southern species, but it is expanding north and west quickly, and has reached counties such as Devon and Gloucestershire).
and 3) I'm using the word 'her' for a reason. The trick with hoverflies is to see whether the eyes are joined (male) or separate (female). As I think you can see, the one in my garden at the moment is most definitely female! The chestnut back is also a feature of the female.
Favourite nectar plants include Buddleia and Hebe. But if you've seen it on anything else, I'd love to know.
My husband recently photographed this insect at How Hill in Norfolk on a buddleia, shortly after seeing a Swallowtail butterfly on the same bush. We'd been excited by seeing the butterfly but he photo'd this too as we didn't know what it was. We identified it when we got home. From your description "ours" was also a female. Hope this helps!
Quite a long way up the country, then, thanks Analin. Watch out Scotland - I think they're on their way
I photographed this insect a few days ago in the Midlands (Northern tip of Birmingham) and was very excited as it stood out by its size from the other hoverflies etc that were milling around my Veronicastrum virginicum alba and the very large mint nearby(Buddleia or Horse Mint?). Thank you for your fascinating and informative blog.