Fantastic photos, the V. bombylans is particularly beautiful. I live in S.E. London, never found it in our local woods, always plenty of other Volucella species. I have been told it occurs in Farningham Woods, a few miles from me, a friend saw some there last year, very impressive. Love to see it for myself.
Thanks Johnny. Yes V. bombylans is real favourite, what a super bombus mimic. I am looking forward to making their acquaintance this year and see what other hoverfly species I can find during my rambles. Keep looking in the larger forests and you are sure to find them. They like grassy rides and clearings with plenty of shorter bracken. Late May & June is best.
I have added images and details of two other interesting species that I observed in 2016. Please click the link above.
Thanks for the info on finding V. bombylans. My wife and son often attend karate courses next to the Tilgate forest in Sussex. Plenty of varied habitat there, next time I shall go and search for flies there. I have read that V. bombylans favours blue flowers, have you observed this?
To tell you the truth in the forest where I see them, I have not yet seen them visiting any flowers. The males take up territories along the main ride or in the other place I have seen them, in a large clearing on bracken. They are always infringing upon each others territories and then a brief fight ensures, before they return to their favourite resting place. Along the ride the males rest on blades of grass, in the clearing on bracken fronds. The females like to bask in the morning on bracken. Savernake Forest where they occur, is a large area but they seem to be very local there and they are not common. All my images were taken in the first half of the morning, I expect in the afternoons, they disperse to a wider area to find nectar.
I did see a male visiting Hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, down by a river bank below the forest in a wooded river valley.
Good luck with your search. Let us know if you find any.