Friday, January 4, 2013

The lesser drone-fly

Lesser drone fly (Eristalinus taeniops)

The lesser drone-fly, which is also known as the band-eyed drone fly, is a common hoverfly found around the Mediterranean from Portugal to Lebanon and from Italy to Libya. It is also found in the Canary Islands, the Caucasus, eastern parts of the Afrotropical region to South Africa, Nepal, northern Pakistan and can now be found in California and Florida where it has been introduced accidentally. 

This species of drone-fly is one of several species of hoverflies found in the Maltese islands. This is a large family found in many habitats frequenting flowers in the same way as bees and wasps which they closely resemble in appearance and behaviour. More than 6,000 species of hoverfly have been identified by scientists of these about thirty species are found in Malta although with more research and study more could be found.

The lesser drone-fly resembles the very common drone-fly. It differs from it in being slightly smaller and the eyes have alternating light and dark vertical stripes. The two species look like a bee and are actually often mistaken for one by humans as well as insect-eating birds which do not eat them as they fear that it would sting them in the same way as a bee. In actual fact hoverflies do not have stings.

The drone-fly is known in Maltese as dubbiena dakar whilst the lesser drone-fly is known as dubbiena ta’ l-g─žajnejn irrigati.

Hoverflies spend a lot of time hovering or feeding on flowers. Their larvae, known as maggots, are found in soil or in fresh water feeding on decaying plant or animal matter. In a few species the maggots feed on plant-sucking insects including aphids and are important in the biological control of insect pests. In some places gardeners use companion plants to attract hoverflies to their gardens so as to reduce the number of pests. This is a form of integrated form of pest management that avoids the use of pesticides which often do more harm than good. 

This article was published in The Times on 18.02.09.

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