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.
In the last week I have, thanks to Nomad's encouragement, found a Volucella inflata (which is apparently the most locally distributed of the Volucella species found in the UK) together with several Volucella bombylans var. bombylans and Volucella bombylans var. plumata. They all occur within a mile of my house in a local park that has some ancient woodland bordering it with loads of bramble blossom around the edges of the fields. The meadowland was used as an anti aircraft battery in WW2 and a large area was concreted over. Subsequently it has become vegetated with a wonderfully mixed sward of clovers, vetches and orchids, including a bee orchid a couple of years ago, unusual for Greater London. I saw plenty of the common Volucella pellucens and one Voluncella zonaria, both these species, together with V. inanis (that comes to the mint blossom on my pond later in the summer) I find in my garden. I have therefore found all five Volucella species locally now.
One thing that impressed me is how feisty the V. bombylans are, they are very territorial driving bumble bees away from their patch of bramble. The mimicry is pretty good and one of the V. bombylans var. bombylans was pretty big and a great mimic of B. lapidarius.
I did take some photos on my phone camera, they're slightly blurry so I shall try to get some better photos in the ensuing weeks.
Last Edit: Jun 12, 2017 0:37:24 GMT -8 by johnnyboy
Great photos Nomad, thanks for posting them. I shall be looking out for more flies this coming spring and summer. I also saw a couple of clearwing moths during the day, probably Sesia apiformis, but they were too fast to get to properly see.
Volucella species seem much scarcer this spring, particularly V. pellucens, I've only seen a couple. I have seem one V. zonaria and four or five V. bombylans including the red-tailed form. Butterflies also seem scarce but I did get a good photo of a green hairstreak, scarce in Greater London area, on my phone camera.