Pollinator heroes of Central Victoria: Common Halfband Hoverfly
Posted on 30 November, 2023 by Ivan
With spring upon us, now is the perfect time to take a closer look at the smaller pollinator heroes of our region! There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats across central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. Throughout the warmer months the bees are buzzing, butterflies are fluttering, beetles are looking for mates and wasps are making nests. There is plenty to see and hear across all habitats in central Victoria if you stop and pay attention to the little things. These wonderful pollinating creatures are the heroes of the bush, grasslands, our gardens and waterways.
The Buzz project: promoting pollinators of central Victoria, is a Connecting Country project funded by the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) through the 2022 Victorian Landcare grants, that aims to celebrate and expand community knowledge on the smaller heroes of our local ecosystems, the insect pollinators. As part of this project, we have explored the lives of some of our most loved native pollinators from across the local region through a series of blogposts throughout November. This is the final blogpost in this series, with the hero of focus from the endearing hoverfly family.
Dr Mark Hall, local entomologist, has kindly shared his extensive knowledge on some of the local pollinator heroes that are so important to the health of our ecosystems.
Common Halfband Hoverfly (Melangyna viridiceps)
Words by Dr. Mark Hall
Hmm, is this a bee? It certainly looks a bit like one with those bright yellow bands. And it is visiting lots of flowers. No, this is actually a fly trying to mimic a bee. Thankfully there are some tell-tale signs to tell the two apart. See those really big eyes, and the very short antennae? Unlike bees that have oval eyes on the sides of their head, fly eyes are typically much larger and rounder, sometimes taking up most of the head. And the antennae are shorter in flies, whereas bees have longer, segmented antennae. And that’s not where the differences end.
Flies are often more abundant in cooler climates, such as higher-up mountains, and can forage in colder weather (so can be more active than bees in early spring in this region). Whereas bees will often be more direct in their fight for flowers, hoverflies spend a lot of time flying above flowers, seemingly surveying for the perfect one before landing. Like bees, they feed almost exclusively on flowers (their larvae eat aphids) and are very good pollinators. They are fast flyers like bees, but they do lack the branched hairs that make bees exceptional pollen carriers.
The Common Halfband Hoverfly can be found across most habitats in south-eastern Australia and in the southwest, including quite arid environments. They will feed on the nectar and pollen of many different types of plants and can also be confused with other hoverfly species, most typically the Yellow-shouldered hoverfly (Simosyrphus grandicornis), which is also common and abundant.
Why not take the opportunity to slow down this spring and take a look in your local bushland or garden and see what pollinator heroes you can find?