KILDARE WILDLIFE COLUMN: Drone-fly is ‘sheep in wolf’s clothing’

Bog of Allen Nature Centre

Nuala Madigan


Nuala Madigan


KILDARE WILDLIFE COLUMN: Drone-fly is ‘sheep in wolf’s clothing’

The Drone-fly

Pollination is the transfer of pollen to a stigma, ovule, flower, or plant to allow fertilization.

For pollination to occur some plants self pollinate, others use the wind and many also rely on the invertebrates buzzing and fluttering around our communities such as bees and butterflies. There is great awareness of the value that bees provide for pollination however often forgotten are the value that the drone-fly provides.

The drone-fly is a type of hoverfly that at a glance looks very much like a bee. They are black in colour with yellow/orange markings, their bodies are covered in hairs, they have large eyes, their antennae are not clearly visible and they do not have a narrow waist between the thorax and abdomen however unlike a bee they only have one pair of wings.

The drone-flies likeness to the bee is known in nature as batesian mimicry, that is the drone-fly is a ‘sheep in a wolf’s clothing’. They look like they have a sting but they do not and they look like they may taste bad but according to some of the research I did before writing this piece they apparently taste good and I am presuming that is to birds not us!

However their appearance warns predators off. The drone-fly begins its life as a rat- tailed maggot living in drains, ditches and wetlands. They get their name due to the presence of a posterier long tube-like breathing siphon. These young drone-flies can indicate to us the quality of water as the drone-fly lays eggs in badly polluted water.

The reason for this is the food that these maggots enjoy are the bacteria found within polluted water. To begin its pupation to an adult the young rat-tailed maggot creeps out of the water to a dry area that can include buildings. The adult feeds only on nectar and as the term hoverfly suggests they can be seen hovering above flowers in search of food.

If you would like to suggest a species to focus on for ‘Wildlife Watch’ contact the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on 045 860133 or email