Posted: Wednesday 16 July 2014
by Richard Jones
Of course, the main reason for painting our Adirondack chairs pale blue was to make the perfect backdrop for photographing insects.
Of course, the main reason for painting our Adirondack chairs pale blue was to make the perfect backdrop for photographing insects. And this morning it paid off in droves.
Waiting calmly in the morning cool was Britain’s largest* fly: Volucella zonaria, the belted hoverfly. It's a truly magnificent beast. It allowed me one photograph (not bad for my phone, I thought), before lifting off helicopter-like vertically up into the air. Being a large insect it did make a loud buzz (or, as I like to call it, a warm, reassuringly confident buzz). Like all large insects it has a striking presence, but I'd prefer to think of its slow flight as thoughtfully calm, rather than menacing.
It’s pretty common in southern England, and is making inroads into Wales and the Midlands. I see it most years, buzzing lazily about the flowers or sunning itself on a leaf. Its larvae scavenge in the bottoms of wasp nests, and possibly feed on the grubs in the combs. The warm spring and summer weather have been good for wasps. We’ve had a bumper crop, so obviously their nest parasites should do well, too.
I look forward to plenty of reports of the fly being photographed on other similarly pastel-painted garden furniture in the near future.
* Arguably there are two other contenders for this claim. The hornet robberfly, Asilus crabroniformis, is longer, but narrower, and the giant cranefly, Tipula maxima, is much longer, but much thinner. Volucella zonaria wins by body mass — at least by my back-of-the-envelope calculations.