The lesser drone-fly is a species of hoverfly found around the Mediterranean from Portugal to Lebanon as well as in many parts of Asia including the Caucasus, Nepal, northern Pakistan, northern India and Iran. It is also found in many parts of Africa reaching as far as South Africa. It has also been introduced in parts of North America particularly in California and Florida where as often happens with introduced species it could become a pest.
In Maltese it is called dubbiena tal-għajnejn irrigati.
The lesser drone-fly is very similar to another very common species known simply as drone-fly, dubbiena dakar in Maltese. The drone fly is slightly larger than the lesser drone-fly and does not have its distinctive striped eyes.
These two species belong to the hoverfly family. This family consists of about six thousand species found throughout most of the world. They can be found in most terrestrial and aquatic habitats.
In the Maltese islands the family is represented by no less than thirty species.
Many of these species live on or near flowers and are usually brightly coloured. Many species defend themselves by mimicking bees and wasps. They look like these poisonous species and many spend a lot of time hovering like them in front of flowers. Their mimicry is so effective that they often fool most people who are not familiar with them.
Adult hoverfly feed mostly on nectar and pollen but their larvae have a totally different menu. While the larvae of some species feed on decaying vegetable matter several species feed on aphids and other plant-sucking insects and are considered as very important agents of biological pest control.
Hover flies are also important pollinators. Some species are generalists. They visit the flowers of many species of plants while others are specialists and visit a limited number of often closely related species. Hoverflies use vision to locate flower. They prefer to visit white or yellow flowers but sometimes they use olfactory clues to locate flowers especially if they are not white or yellow.
This article was published in the Times of Malta on 29 October 2013.