Thursday, 16 May 2013

Egg laying Footballer hoverfly

Footballer hoverflies are commonly seen near water: ditches, ponds and drains, their genus name Helophilus, actually means 'lover of marshes' in Greek. On a little twig over a puddle on the pavement by a busy road, two Helophilus pendulus females - their abdomens large and turgid with eggs - laid. While one of them was busy actually laying under the twig, the other seemed to be 'feeling' the twig with the ovipositor, probably selecting the best site to lay her shiny white eggs. Note the ovipositor stretched out. Helophilus lay their eggs on clumps - like bluebottles - unlike other hoveflies which lay individual eggs singly. This might well be due to their different feeding habits. Many hoverfly larvae are predatory, and being born away from hungry siblings might give them a better chance to find food (like aphids). Helophilus are related to Droneflies, and their larvae, called rat-tailed maggots, are aquatic, and develop on very wet manure or submerged rotting organic material often in large numbers, so they are less likely to compete for food. Their 'tails' are actually long telescopic breathing tubes, that they can retract into their bodies.
 For a great series of shots of Helophilus egg laying and larvae development check BugGuide.
Another shot of the laying female
I turned the twig to reveal the egg clutch after the female lad left. As they lay under the twig, the eggs are not readily visible.


6 comments:

Lucy Corrander at Loose and Leafy said...

Great post! (Sorry, that sounds just the kind of thing a spammer would say. Don't know how to leave comments that are neither repetitive nor over-the-top . . but do like to say something from time to time so you know how much your blog is appreciated.) (Oh, that sounds just as bad!)

Africa Gómez said...

Thank you Lucy, much appreciated! Lovely to know you are reading and enjoying it at the other end

JJ said...

Fascinating behaviour..thanks for sharing. I have seen these Hoverflies locally (Kent) but never heard them referred to as footballer hovers before :-)

Phil said...

Fascinating. I've never seen hoverfly egg clusters although I often find rat-tailed maggots, especially in the temporary little pools of water and decaying leaves that collect in the depressions formed by beech tree surface roots. These little pools are interesting microcosms, with inhabitants ranging from protists to hoverfly larvae - presumably organisms that can either get through their life cycle quickly or have stages that are resistant to drought...

Africa Gómez said...

Hi Phil, and thank you for sharing your observations, I have to explore these little aquatic habitats and search for the maggots next

Africa Gómez said...

Thank you JJ. I don't think footballer hoverfly is a widespread name for them, I saw somebody use it and I have adopted it.