Having spent too much time in from of a laptop crunching incubation data this weekend, I decided it was time to finally plant the crocuses my girlfriend bought about two weeks ago; since that time they have languished in the shade of the kitchen, next to the pot they were destined for. Apart from the break from the computer screen, this spot of pseudo-gardening added a new species to my (new) garden list.
Within twenty minutes of being in their new home, feeling the winter’s sun on their petals, they had opened up. Within 30 minutes the flowers had visitors. Up to five hoverflies at a time aligned themselves on the open blooms. I’d like to say I could have told you what they were but my insect ID is just a little better than my botanical skills – and those are lacking. Photos were taken and sent to my friend and colleague Andrew Lucas (@AndrewLucas103) who knows a lot about Hoverflies!
The visitors were Episyrphus balteatus or the Marmalade Fly – what a wonderful common name! It’s probably the UK’s most common species of hoverfly. Adults can be found all year round so no wonder they found the flowers so quickly. It’s more common in the summer though when numbers can be bolstered by migrants from the continent. As its larvae eat aphids, the marmalade fly should be welcomed by gardeners.
I’ve not come across Episyrphus balteatus before so am pleased to have seen it, especially on a frosty February weekend. It’s a beautiful hoverfly and hopefully one of many more to come.