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  • Volucella bombylans
  • Volucella bombylans
  • Volucella bombylans

Common nameN/A
Scientific nameVolucella bombylans
Irish nameN/A

Volucella bombylans is common and widely distributed in Ireland. It is a hoverfly that mimics bumblebees. Its conservation status has not been formally assessed.

See key provided in the StN Keys volume. The adult insect is illustrated in colour by Bartsch et al (2009b), Kormann, Stubbs and Falk (1983), Torp (1984, 1994) and van der Goot (1986). Volucella bombylans has two distinct colour forms. One mimics the white tailed bumblebees and the other the red tailed bumblebees. There is also a unique morph that occurs only on the Aran Islands. Volucella bombylans is distinguished by its feathery (plumose) antennae. There is an identification guide to Irish hoverfly species that mimic bumblebees on the Irish Pollinator Initiative website.

In the collections of NMI and UM.

Forest/wetland; open areas in most types of deciduous forest and humid Pinus forest, edges of fens and raised bogs; along hedges in farmland; in evergreen oak forest (Q. ilex) in southern Europe. V. bombylans occurs in a wide range of habitats in Ireland, where the bumble bees (Bombus) that host its larvae are to be found. These include the Irish species Bombus jonellus, B. lapidarius, B. muscorum, B. pascuorum, B. ruderarius, B. sylvarum and B. terrestris (Barkemeyer, 1994). Some of these bumble bee species are now becoming threatened in Ireland as a consequence of intensification of farming activities, drainage of wetlands and coniferisation of erstwhile open areas, but others remain frequent. The latter group includes B. pascuorum, which can use field margins/hedgerows as nest sites and V. bombylans is frequent in farmland. It does not occur in gardens or suburban parks, however. V. bombylans is to a significant extent an anthropophilic syrphid in Ireland and this is likely to continue for as long as farming practices do not cause the disappearance of bumble bees from the Irish farmland landscape (bumble bees have already largely disappeared from farmland in parts of the Atlantic seabord countries of Europe).

Clearings, tracksides etc., in scrub as well as mature woodland; also in humid grassland and along field hedges; usually flies within 2m of the ground; settles on low-growing vegetation and bushes.

May/August, plus September at higher altitudes/more northerly latitudes. Larva: the final instar larva and puparium are described and figured by Rotheray (1999b). The morphology of the chorion of the egg is figured by Kuznetzov (1988). Smith (1955) describes the egg and first instar larva; the larvae are known to be detritivores/larval predators in nests of bumble bees (Bombus species), where they occur in the floor of the nest cavity, as shown diagrammatically by Schmid (1996). Barkemeyer (1994) lists the Bombus species with which larvae of this syrphid have been found, pointing out that there are also records from nests of Vespula species. Rotheray (1999b) provides a key to the determination of the larvae and puparia of European Volucella species, other than V. elegans.

From northern Fennoscandia south to Iberia; from Ireland eastwards through central and southern Europe into Russia and the Caucasus and on to the Pacific coast and Japan; in N America from Alaska to Newfoundland and south to California and Georgia. It occurs north to as far as northern Norway, and south almost to the Mediterranean. However, it is somewhat less frequent in southern Europe than elsewhere in the continent. It is a Holarctic syrphid, widely distributed in North America. 8,286 records of this species are mapped on the Global Biodiversity Information Facility data portal.

Recorded as occurring in Ireland in Coe (1953). Volucella bombylans is common and widely distributed in Ireland, as it is in much of western and central Europe. As of July 2013, there were 377 records of Volucella bombylans on Biodiversity Maps Biodiversity Maps. This includes records from May to September. Records are available for 157 10km squares. The earliest record in the database is from 1901.

Through the Irish Pollinator Initiative, the National Biodiversity Data Centre is trying to improve our knowledge on the distribution of hoverflies in Ireland. Although Volucella bombylans is a common hoverfly we do not have good data on its distribution. Should you observe this species, please submit the sighting to add to the database. Detailed observations will assist us gaining a better insight into the range and status of Volucella bombylans in Ireland. If you are uncertain please attach a photograph for validation. Please submit any sightings and photographs. All records submitted on line can be viewed on Google Maps below – once checked and validated these will be added to the national database and made available for conservation and research.

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For further information on the Volucella bombylans see:

Species account taken from the below publication, with all references therein:

For further information contact Dr Úna FitzPatrick (ufitzpatrick@biodiversityireland.ie).