Updated on November 18, 2022
We usually talk about critters that cause damage to your home or garden, but sometimes even beneficial critters can be considered a pest. Enter the hoverfly, an important species that’s often misunderstood and sometimes even feared.
Let’s take a closer look at these critters, what they do, and how to get rid of them when it’s deemed necessary.
Getting to Know Hoverflies
Hoverflies often get a bad reputation due to their appearance. However, these particular critters are actually highly beneficial. Learning to identify them can allay most concerns about the species.
What is a Hoverfly?
This member of the fly family has developed a defense mechanism which tends to get them in trouble with humans. They’ve evolved to physically resemble wasps in shape and size, and mimic the mannerisms of this more hostile species to scare away predators.
What Are Hoverflies Attracted To?
Hoverflies are primarily attracted to sweet smells, as their primary food sources are pollen and nectar. Like all flies, they can be attracted to rotting fruit or garbage.
They’re sometimes called corn flies because there’s often an infestation in corn fields where the larvae feast on aphids.
Why Do Hoverflies Land on Me?
Human sweat contains essential salts that attract many pests including hoverflies. While you may have a hoverfly land on you, it’s only doing so for the salt and actually means no harm.
See Also: Why Do Crane Flies Fly At Your Face?
Do Hoverflies Sting or Bite?
Hoverflies are perfectly harmless. They lack a stinger and their mouthparts are designed for extracting pollen and nectar, so they’re unable to bite.
Hoverflies vs Sweat Bees
Sweat bees are small and usually have an iridescent appearance. While the term can be applied to more than a thousand species of bee, it can also be applied to hoverflies. In reality, hoverflies aren’t bees and the overlap of names is purely behavioral association.
Hoverflies vs Wasps
While flies and wasps are usually very different, the resemblance between a hoverfly and wasp can be uncanny at a glance. Thankfully, there are some key differences that can help you avoid a nasty sting.
Wasps have two pairs of wings which fold back onto their body when they’re at rest. They have long, thin bodies and yellow markings across the eyes and thorax.
Hoverflies, meanwhile, have only one pair of wings. These remain at an angle to the body even when resting. They also have much rounder proportions that line up closer with horse flies or honey bees.
Their eyes and the top of the thorax are solid black, although there are some yellow markings along the sides of the thorax.
How to Get Rid of Hoverflies
Due to their important role in the ecosystem, we strongly discourage the use of any lethal methods. Instead, repellent methods are generally best and can be surprisingly effective.
See Also: Getting Rid of Cluster Flies
On a Patio or Porch
It can be unpleasant to have a hoverfly drop by when you’re enjoying tea on the patio. Thankfully, you can get rid of them simply by using an electric fan. Corded fans work best, but a decent battery-operated fan will also work.
Simply turn the fan on and the increased airflow will frustrate the hoverflies into leaving. You can turn the fan on whenever a hoverfly shoes up, then turn it off once they’re gone.
Citronella candles are also an effective means of repelling hoverflies. The pleasant-smelling candles have the added benefit of repelling many other pests as well.
In the House
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to save hoverflies that wander into the home. Nobody wants a bunch of hovering flies in the kitchen when they’re cooking, and it’s very difficult to shoo them out a window or door. In cases like this, you may have to resort to lethal force.
Simply pick the product of DIY trap that works best for you, place it where the hoverflies are gathering, and let them do their thing.
How to Repel Hoverflies
When in the garden, hoverflies, like bees, serve as vital pollinators. Old stories suggest they lay their eggs on the backs of aphids, but this has not been confirmed. Since hoverfly populations can become a nuisance in floral or crop gardens, it’s often best to repel or redirect them.
Repellents in the Garden
A number of homemade repellents will keep hoverflies away from your garden without harming them. These are often very simple recipes and will often repel other pests as well. Some common ones include:
- Citronella (lemongrass)
- Citrus peels
- Half a lemon with cloves sprinkled all over it
- Spray made with vinegar, soap, and water
A more extreme repellent mixes dish soap, mineral oil, and apple cider vinegar with oils from basil, peppermint, and rosemary. This concoction works really well but can be overpowering even to humans, so it should be reserved as a last resort in areas you like to visit.
Related: How to Get Rid of Horse Flies
Attracting Hoverflies Elsewhere
The very things that attract hoverflies to your garden can be used to keep them away when paired with repellents.
Plant some flowers that have a high pollen count and are known to attract bees and butterflies along the border of your property away from the garden. As the hoverflies are chased away from the garden itself, they will locate this new food resource and make that their new home.