What’s a Hoverfly?
Are you wondering how to get rid of hoverflies? This article will guide you, but first, what’s a hoverfly? The insect family Syrphidae includes hoverflies, also known as flower flies or syrphid flies.
As their common name suggests, you will frequently see them hovering over flowers. The adults of many species feed primarily on pollen and nectar, while the larvae (maggots) eat various foods.
Where do Hoverflies Live?
You can find hoverflies all over the world. They prefer desert-like environments like extremely hot and dry environments, extremely low to freezing temperatures like Arctic regions, and high-altitude areas. Furthermore, different species prefer different vegetation, which often restricts them to specific ranges within a country.
They prefer dense foliage near flowers, especially near aphid-infested plants. As a result, gardens and wildflower fields are ideal habitats for hoverflies.
How to Get Rid of Hoverflies
Although not everyone enjoys seeing hoverflies on the patio, in the garden, or in the living room, they are among the most popular outdoor insects. They play a crucial role as pollinators. Because of their constant flying and buzzing into people, they can be quite annoying, leaving you wondering how to get rid of hoverflies.
There are numerous methods for dealing with hoverflies. Before we get into the various methods, it’s important to note that while these flies can be a nuisance, they also provide many benefits to our gardens. They are excellent at controlling aphids and pollinating plants. We will review a few natural and safe methods of repelling or eliminating hoverflies permanently.
Spraying Herb-Infused Oil
Many herbs and spices are toxic to pollinating insects. Natural repellents include rosemary, citrus, thyme, and peppermint essential oils. Mixing them with water (1:4 or 1:3) and spraying the solution on flowers may be enough to keep flies away.
Unfortunately, just like apple cider vinegar, you must reapply this solution as soon as it evaporates, or the flies will return to your garden.
Using Irish Soap
Irish spring soap is an excellent natural hoverfly repellent. Thousands of people claim that putting it in a mesh bag and hanging it on the patio will keep the flies away. There is currently no scientific study confirming or denying this – it’s possible and worth a shot, but there’s no guarantee it will work.
Most natural deterrents are scent-based; animals will not approach an area that smells bad to them. Scent-based animal deterrents such as vinegar and lemon are common. There are still flies that will ignore these scents and stay in your yard, regardless. As a result, it should not disappoint you if this one doesn’t work out.
Combine Apple Cider Vinegar and Dish Soap
To keep flies away, dilute this solution with water and spray it on your flowers; they mostly react to vinegar, so a clean vinegar-water solution may also be effective.
However, you must apply this solution every few days because it quickly dissipates (especially if it is extremely hot outside). Furthermore, applying it to your flowers ensures no pollinators pollinate them, which is harmful to the plant and your local ecosystem.
Apple cider vinegar may also attract fruit flies because it smells like rotting fruit to them. You can use a jar filled with apple cider vinegar and dish soap to trap and drown them.
Homemade Sugar Fly Traps
You can make homemade fly traps with a variety of ingredients. This is usually something that resembles rotting fruit or animal matter. With hoverflies, you require sugar because they only get attraction from nectar.
If you have a hoverfly infestation in your home (which is unlikely because they prefer to be near flowers), try a mixture of sugar, water, and a little liquid dish soap. The mixture of sugar and water should attract hoverflies, while the liquid dish soap will stick to them and drown them.
If you try this method outside, the smell of sugar and water will probably not be strong enough to attract the flies, and they will continue feeding on nectar.
Burn Citronella Candles
Citronella candles are natural fly repellents; lighting one on your patio table will keep flies away. Their application, however, is severely limited. The scent of the candle does not travel more than a few yards.
It’s a wonderful way to keep flies away from your home or terrace, but it’s nearly impossible to keep hoverflies away from your yard because you will need to light hundreds of candles simultaneously. They can be very useful if you use them correctly, especially when removing hoverflies in small spaces.
Making a Draught or Using a Fan
The simplest thing you can do if you have hoverflies in your home is to open the windows. This works in two ways. First, you create a draught, which forces the flies out. Second, the flies probably don’t want to be in your house. Hoverflies are more interested in feeding and pollinating on the nectar of plants found outside unless you have a miniature garden inside.
They’ll use a window to escape if you open one. When you open the windows, the flies may not get the message. In that case, turn on a fan and blow them out. Animals naturally avoid windy areas, and it will blow the tiny flies away after realizing that the place isn’t safe for them.
You can kill hoverflies by spraying broad-spectrum insecticides on your flowers. Gardeners use insecticides regardless of the presence of hoverflies because they kill aphids and other pests. However, it is not the best method. Because hoverflies are beneficial insects, killing them is detrimental to biodiversity.
It’s understandable to want to keep them out of the garden if they’re an eyesore, but killing them keeps them from pollinating other gardens and wild plants. Never use insecticides indoors! If you have a severe hoverfly infestation, whether indoors or outdoors, that you can’t get rid of using natural methods, it’s best to call in professional exterminators.
Putting In Fly Traps and Zappers
Insects, by nature, cannot ignore a light in the dark; they will always approach it and become electrocuted. Zappers are an excellent way to eliminate hoverflies (or other insects) in your yard. Hoverfly traps produce mixed results. Animal and plant matter do not attract adult hoverflies like they attract most flies. So, only sugary fly traps will catch them.
However, you may need more than sugary fly traps, especially if your garden has many flowers.
Permanent Hoverfly Elimination
If you are struggling to eliminate your hoverfly problem, reconsider your approach. Why are they present? You can make a more fundamental change by removing attracting plants or flowers. This is a final but more expensive option for keeping hoverflies away from your home.
Introduce Plants That Produce Low Pollen in Your Garden
Hoverflies are pollinating insects that like pollen-rich plants. Although it may harm the appearance of your garden, there is no more effective way to get rid of hoverflies than to remove your existing plant and replace it with low-pollen plants.
This frequently means that there is less color and fewer flowers in the garden, which gardeners despise, but it also ensures that your garden is less appealing to hoverflies.
How to Get Rid of Hoverflies on Patios
Patios look nice with flowers on them; removing them should eliminate the hoverflies. Because the patio area is smaller than the garden, it is one of the few places where citronella candles are effective.
Removing Hoverflies From Lawns
Hoverflies get drawn to lawns with weeds with tiny flowers that are difficult to control and seem to grow indefinitely on lawns during the summer months. Daisy, wild violets, and chamomile are all good examples.
Regular lawn mowing and ripping out large flowers (chamomile can grow quite large) will keep flies away from your lawn. Grass doesn’t attract hoverflies.
Getting Rid of Hoverflies in Conservatories
Lighting citronella candles and opening the windows is the simplest way to keep flies away from conservatories. You can use a fan to blow the flies away. We recommend installing insect meshes on all windows to keep them from returning.
Getting Rid of Hoverflies in the Garden
You should not be concerned if hoverflies appear in your garden. Hoverflies only lay eggs in areas where other pests, such as ants, aphids, termites, and wasps, are present. You should eliminate hoverflies and insects from your garden using a safe, all-purpose insect repellent.
Sprinkling insecticides such as diatomaceous earth or baking soda on the ground around your plants or in areas where hoverflies appear to congregate will kill some of the larvae, significantly reducing the hoverfly population.
You can also scare away hoverflies with repellents such as essential oils, incense, and bonfires. Many insects, including hoverflies, will be repelled by a fly spray made of vinegar, essential oils, water, and dish soap.
If the infestation is severe, use sugar-baited traps to eliminate some hoverflies. In general, you should only kill hoverflies in your garden if there are too many of them, as they can kill other pests and keep your garden plants healthy.
Getting Rid of Hoverflies in the House
Nobody wants uninvited insects, especially flies, in their home. Set traps and move flowers away from open windows and doors to eliminate hoverflies in the house.
The most efficient and dependable way to eliminate unwanted pests in your home is to use fly traps. Also, keep flowers away from windows if you want to keep hoverflies away from your indoor spaces because the attraction comes from their scent and bright colors.
Where do They Nest?
So, where do hoverflies nest? You will always come across a hoverfly nest in trees. Some hoverflies, however, lay their eggs in ant, bee, termite, or hornet nests. This is because they are masters at impersonating more frightening stinging insects. Can a hoverfly sting? No, they only resemble stinging insects but don’t sting.
Nonetheless, once the eggs hatch, they frequently eat other insects that infiltrate the nest, protecting bees and other bugs from predators. Hoverflies of other species lay their eggs in sewage. The larvae eat microscopic organisms and other insects that contaminate the water there.
How to Keep Hoverflies Away
Even though hoverflies can benefit your outdoor spaces, having insects buzzing around your space when trying to enjoy a book and a cup of tea is never fun. If you have hoverflies in your home, you can use a fan, essential oils, or incense to repel them. You can also use fly traps to kill them.
Warm places with plants attract hoverflies, so if you want to avoid hoverflies from breeding in your living area, start by placing any flowers you keep in your house outside. You could also coat some paper strips in essential oils like mint, citronella, or basil and place them near entryways.
You can also repel hoverflies with the use of incense. If the hoverflies keep returning, you may need to purchase a trap, such as flypapers or a bug zapper, to keep them out of your space.
How to Identify Them
Hoverflies come in many species, each with unique markings and sizes. The adult hoverfly size is usually 2/10 an inch (6 to 7millimiters) long. They have several horizontal and vertical yellow stripes on their thorax and abdomen. Most people frequently confuse them with bees or wasps due to their yellow and black markings, but they are harmless and lack a stinger.
They also have only two large wings, distinguishing them from wasps and bees. These wings have a one-of-a-kind spurious vein, a dimple in the center of the wings that do not connect to any other vein. Some hoverflies have shiny, round abdomens, while others have narrow or hairy ones that help them stand out.
They have gigantic eyes that are large, red, and black. Another observation is that their antennae are also short.
What Attracts Hoverflies?
Food is the most critical factor in attracting flies to your home; these flies go where there are fruit and flower gardens. Pollinating insects such as ground bees, honeybees, and hoverflies will flock to flowering plants.
However, different hoverflies have different habitat preferences. Some prefer aquatic or semiaquatic habitats, so they may come to your yard because it is near a stream or river or if you have a pond.
People know that hoverflies swarm in urban areas during the summer. Unprotected gardens not only provide food but also provide shade from the sun. Having hoverflies in your yard might not be such a bad thing.
The Hoverfly Life Cycle
They go through four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Larvae grow through three instars of increasing size after hatching. Before pupating, the last instar frequently migrates. It may remain inactive for an extended period (as a prepupa) before pupating into adulthood. Females seek habitats suitable for the development of their larvae after mating.
Most species pupate on topsoil, host plants, or on the ground in litter. To mature into adults, pupae generally require dampness or relatively high humidity. Especially in dry conditions, mature larvae move away from host plants in search of moist litter or loose soil, where they pupate up to several inches deep.
During the growing season, egg to adult development time for hoverflies that prey on aphids or mealybugs is typically 2 to 4 weeks. Each year, these species can have 5 to 7 generations. Overwintering can occur as adults in protected areas or as prepupae in colder regions.
Syrphids may be active all year in mild coastal areas. Ant predators typically have one generation per year, such as Microdon piperi, which feeds on the eggs of various carpenter ants, and Camponotus species.
Are They Harmful or Beneficial?
Hoverflies are not harmful – they’re some of the most valuable insects in the world. People and hoverflies have a good relationship because they are excellent pollinators and their larvae feed on common pests.
Some farmers and gardeners use companion plants that attract hoverflies to keep their plants pest-free while pollinating them. Companion plants include chamomile, garden candytuft, parsley, and buckwheat.
Despite their resemblance to bees, hoverflies lack a stinger and cannot harm humans or pets. If you’re trying to discover how to eliminate hoverflies out of fear, know that these bugs are completely harmless and can benefit your garden.
The Different Types of Hoverflies
In North America, there are over 900 different types of hoverflies. Each species resembles another insect. Hoverflies resemble sweat bees, honey bees, yellow jackets, wasps, and other stinging insects, but they are all completely harmless. Below are some types of hoverflies:
The dronefly is a common medium-sized hoverfly that mimics honey bees well. It is one of several hoverfly species whose larvae, known as ‘rat-tailed maggots,’ live in muddy water and feed on decaying organic matter. Adults feed on nectar in various habitats, and you can see them all year, emerging from hibernation on milder winter days to feed on Ivy flowers.
According to recent research, the dronefly not only looks like a honeybee but also moves like one, following the same flight patterns.
Eastern Hornet Flies
The Eastern hornet fly is a medium-sized, wasp-mimicking flower fly. You can find it east of the Great Plains in the United States and in Ontario and Quebec, Canada. It is also available in and around the state’s Metro region, at the western end of its range. From late May to late October, you can find adults hovering around flowers in hardwood forests, often on hilltops.
Larvae live in deep rotholes in trees. A rothole is a cavity formed by fungal and bacterial action at the site of a wound. A deep rothole will not heal. The water inside is reddish-brown and comes primarily from the tree’s vascular system rather than rain.
Black-Shouldered Drone Fly
The black-shouldered drone fly is a hairy, medium-sized hoverfly that emerges early. You find it east of the Great Plains in the United States and southern Canada. In Minnesota, it’s relatively common. It’s one of the first hoverflies to appear in the spring.
You can find adults in forests from April to late September. They eat flower nectar. The larvae are aquatic and are called rat-tailed maggots. You can find them in polluted water or wet carcasses. They eat small organisms.
The hemispherical head is slightly wider than the thorax. The location of the two large compound eyes is on the sides of the head, and three small, simple eyes (ocelli) are in a triangle on top of the head. Short hairs cover the compound eyes densely.
Syritta pipiens, also called the thick-legged hoverfly, is a common species in the insect family Syrphidae. This fly originated in Europe, and you can find it throughout Eurasia and North America. You will also find their larvae in wet, rotting organic matter such as garden compost, silage, and manure.
The species is also common in man-made environments such as most gardens, farmland, and urban parks, as well as anywhere there are flowers. Adult Syritta pipiens flies are critical pollinators for various flowering plants in their native ecosystem, and the species supports parasitism by various parasitic wasp species.
Eastern Calligrapher Fly
Eastern caligrapher flies are small syrphid flies. The compound eyes are reddish-brown, and white is on the back of the head. The male’s face is white, and its compound eyes meet near the top of its head. The eyes do not meet on the female, and a dark, broad, vertical stripe extends from between the eyes to the antennae. The antennae are short and yellow.
A shield-shaped exoskeletal plate covers the large middle section of the thorax (mesonotum). The shield’s large, forward portion (scutum) is blackish-brown with pale, yellowish-brown longitudinal stripes. It has no hair. The scutellum (the smaller, backward part of the shield) has similar colors but has yellow hairs.
The globetail is a small hoverfly that looks like a wasp. You can find it from Alaska to Texas and from the west to the east coast of North America. It is widespread in southern Canada and the northern United States, including Minnesota.
The head is noticeably larger than the thorax. Two large compound eyes are on the sides of the head, and three small, simple eyes (ocelli) are in a triangle on the top of the head. There are no erect hairs on the compound eyes. They meet on the upper part of the male face, corresponding to the brow. They are separate on the female.
The frons color is yellow, and the female frons has a broad black stripe down the center with many fine wrinkles and yellow skin. Additionally, the protruding mouthpart (proboscis) is fleshy and short. The antennae are short, with only three segments. You can find a stiff, forward-pointing bristle on the third segment (arista). The thorax is massive, gleaming, and black.
The oblique stripetail is a colorful and common little fly in Florida frequently misidentified as a harmful fruit fly. Besides syrphid flies, only a few insects can hover or fly backward. You will frequently see adults visiting flowers for nectar or in aphid colonies where they lay their eggs and feed on honeydew secreted by the aphids.
Some plants consider the adults to be essential agents in cross-pollination. The larvae are important predators, primarily feeding on aphids that attack grains, citrus, subtropical fruit trees, corn, alfalfa, grapes, cotton, lettuce, and other vegetables, ornamentals, and a wide variety of wild plants. When larval populations are abundant, they may decrease aphid populations by 70 to 100%.
Narcissus Bulb Fly
Merodon equestris, also called the Narcissus Bulb Fly, is a bee-like hoverfly whose larvae bore into the bulbs of Narcissus plants. They also infest Crocus and snowdrop bulbs. You will see them frequently in gardens and flower-filled suburban habitats.
The most common symptoms are bulb death or failure to produce flowers. You should dig up and dispose of bulbs as soon as you suspect an infestation. Adults are large, hairy yellow and black flies.
It looks like a small bumble bee. The female lays eggs on or near the narcissus or other hosts’ crowns. In most cases, only one larva develops in each bulb. The larva is plump, wrinkled, and white to yellow.
Do They Bite?
Hoverflies do not bite, sting, or harm humans, leaving them defenseless in the face of predators. Since they cannot protect themselves, they evolve to resemble stinging insects. This protects them from predators like spiders.
Why are There So Many?
Hoverflies can benefit plants, but their abundance in your yard can be annoying and overwhelming. In most cases, hoverflies are abundant when you have a large flower garden, an aphid infestation, or the weather has been warmer. You may need to remove certain flowers and pests from your garden to stop attracting hoverflies to your outdoor spaces.
The Words Out!
Hoverflies are extremely beneficial insects, and most experts advise against removing them. They can only help your garden grow; their larvae feed on pests, keeping them healthy. Hoverflies are also not dangerous to humans. If you’re still wondering how to get rid of hoverflies, keep in mind that plants with a high pollen count attract them.
Plants with low pollen counts will attract fewer hoverflies. You can use natural deterrents such as vinegar, essential oils, and citronella candles to keep them at bay. You can also eliminate indoor hoverfly infestations by using a powerful fan.