The Hornet Mimic Hoverfly is a large hoverfly with a wingspan of up to 2 centimetres. Hoverfly advocate Dr Erica McAlister, senior curator at London’s Natural History Museum, thinks of this hoverfly as “basically a flying tank”! As its name suggests, it mimics a hornet - by size, by appearance and by flight. It has no sting and is harmless. It has been recorded in the south and south-east of England, particularly in parks and gardens. This splendid creature is capable of “buzz pollination”. Gripping firmly onto petals and vibrating its large body, it releases otherwise stubbornly attached pollen from plants.
This mimicry affords the insect several advantages: it reduces the number of predators that might be tempted to snack on it, and because females lay their eggs in wasp and hornet nests, the larvae live in these nests being tended by the rest of the colony. Think of this fly as being a cuckoo of the insect world!
Volucella zonaria is on the Sussex Rare Species Inventory.