Tag Archives: feeding

A sinister-looking fly

A number of people have asked me about a sinister-looking fly with a big pointy beak on its head, which they have been seeing around their gardens lately. Many people are wondering if these are the horse-flies I was alluding to in an earlier instalment. You’ll be glad to know you are perfectly safe, as this is actually Rhyngia campestris, known to its friends as the Beaked Hover Fly. The photos below are very close up, so the insect looks much bigger than it appears in real life, but imagine it to be roughly the size of the more troublesome House Fly.

The Beaked Hover Fly. Here you can see it has a lower 'jaw' which opens beneath the beak to release a very long proboscis which it uses to feed on nectar.
The Beaked Hover Fly feeding on viola nectar. Here you can see it has a lower ‘jaw’ which opens beneath the beak to release a very long proboscis which it uses to feed on nectar.

Beaked Hover Flies are especially fond of violets, violas and pansies, and their extremely long probosces seem to have evolved to feed on these kinds of flowers. But they like Russian Comfrey and Wild Mustard too.

When seen from above the extraorinary length of the proboscis is easy to see. In this case feeding on a viola.
When seen from above the extraorinary length of the proboscis is easy to recognise. In this case the fly is feeding on a viola.

Anyhow, there is absolutely nothing to fear from this harmless nectar-feeder. It’s a vitally important pollinator of our plants, and our very lives depend on the existence of these creatures and their relatives. It may not be particularly colourful (it looks like beautiful amber to me), but it does have a lovely beak.