Syrphid flies mimic wasps or bees (Apoidea) but their large round eyes and tiny club-like antennae give them away. While most flies occasionally take advantage of nectar, only the Syrphidae are known to eat pollen, and their hairy bee disguise makes them relatively efficient pollen transporters. As flies they do not sting, however.
Flies that disguise themselves as wasps and bees can discourage real wasps from preying on them. Their disguise may also prevent real bees from landing on the same flowers and competing with them; although a Syrphid never fails to flee the instant a genuine wasp or bee lands nearby!
The Syrphidae are divided into three subfamilies with different life strategies. The Eristalinae deposit eggs in water or damp wood; the emerging larvae are mainly detritivores. The Syrphinae deposit eggs on herbaceous plants near hatches of aphids, on which the larvae feed voraciously. The Microdontinae hover near ant nests, in which they deposit their eggs. Their larvae prey on larval ants, or scavenge the ants’ stored provisions.
The scientific name of this fly family is derived from the Greek term syrphos, a “gnat” or small fly.