[Syrphidae] Flower flies versus hover flies

christian thompson cthompson@sel.barc.usda.gov
Mon, 22 Apr 2002 18:09:25 -0400

I will answer the simple question first.

The group term "Flower Flies" is the officially approved term by the
Entomological Society of America, etc.

In North America, the term hover flies has never had any usage.  And being
more pragmatic than our European colleagues, years ago Dick Vockeroth who
works for Agriculture Canada, and I, who work for U. S. Department of
Agriculture, decided it made more sense to use a common name that imply some
importance to the group. Hover fly sound like some hobby group, for which no
serious research organization should spend more on. Flower flies link the
importance of the adult as pollinators, an significant trait for
agriculture, etc.  Some of my colleagues went as far as adding
"aphid-killing" to their titles (Knutson for example) to emphasize the
importance of some of the larvae to Agriculture, etc.

What has surprised over the years as I have talked to many higher
Administrators, etc., how many initially thought I work on "flour" flies!

So, the bottom line is clear: If you want to work on Syrphidae for a
living, make the group sound important to employers. If you just want to
have fun studying them, you can call them anything you want.


F. Christian Thompson
Systematic Entomology Lab., ARS, USDA
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D. C. 20560-0169
(202) 382-1800 voice
(202) 786-9422 FAX
cthompso@sel.barc.usda.gov [NB: no terminal "n"]
visit our Diptera site at www.diptera.org