Yellowjacket Hover Fly

Milesia virginiensis

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Virginia flower fly resting on a concrete surface
The Virginia flower fly (Milesia virginiensis) is a completely harmless mimic of yellowjackets. No more dangerous than a housefly, it buzzes around and seems aggressive. This defensive tactic no doubt leads many people kill it out of fear and ignorance.
Other Common Name
Virginia Flower Fly
Family

Syrphidae (flower flies) in the order Diptera (flies)

Description

The yellowjacket hover fly, or Virginia flower fly, is a completely harmless mimic of yellowjackets. No more dangerous than a housefly, it buzzes around and seems aggressive. This defensive tactic no doubt leads many people kill it out of fear and ignorance.

As with other true flies, you can distinguish them from the wasps they mimic by their single pair of wings, short antennae, and flylike compound eyes. This and other syrphid flies are famous for visiting flowers, hovering around them and intimidating people who think they might sting.

Learn more about this and other flower flies (syrphids) in their group entry.

Size

Length: ¾–1 inch.

Human connections

In the South, hover flies are called "good news flies" or "good news bees" because they hover right in front of your face, as if to give you some news.

Flower flies do not bite or sting. They play a role in pollination and many help to reduce the numbers of aphids and other insects injurious to crops or garden plants.

Ecosystem connections

It is clear that syrphids, as a group, play a big role in flower pollination, with much variation regarding the particulars. Some syrphid species are generalists, visiting many kinds of flowers, while others visit only certain types of flowers. They may not carry as much pollen as a bee does, but they seem to work faster, making more visits.