Yellowjacket Hover Fly

Virginia flower fly resting on a concrete surface
Scientific Name
Milesia virginiensis
Syrphidae (flower flies) in the order Diptera (flies)

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 to 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 flies in the syrphid family 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.

Other Common Names
Virginia Flower Fly

Length: ¾–1 inch.

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.

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.

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Similar Species
About Land Invertebrates in Missouri
Invertebrates are animals without backbones, including earthworms, slugs, snails, and arthropods. Arthropods—invertebrates with “jointed legs” — are a group of invertebrates that includes crayfish, shrimp, millipedes, centipedes, mites, spiders, and insects. There may be as many as 10 million species of insects alive on earth today, and they probably constitute more than 90 percent all animal species.