Caught out by a mimic

From Simon's beekeeping blog. Comments are welcome via email.


We met this visitor to our apiary this morning calmly sitting on the gate. It looked bigger than the honey bees, and, not knowing much about insects, I thought it might be a hornet. Checking a few pictures, I was unsure whether it was an Asian or boring old European hornet. I would have been wrong in both cases. Consulting a friendly expert — probably needlessly — I'm told the visitor was a hoverfly, 'many of which are extremely good wasp and bee mimics'.

Specifically, this looks like a Hornet (mimic) hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), which resemble worker hornets. But, being flies, they only have one pair of wings (hornets and wasps have two pairs). They also have more yellow stripes, rather than one fine yellow band, and much darker legs than the Asian hornet, which is also called the yellow-legged hornet, arguably a more useful name for those, like me, who don't know a hornet from a fly.