[Syrphidae] Keeping hoverflies in captivity

Matthew SULLIVAN M.Sullivan at mmu.ac.uk
Mon Jul 24 12:28:32 BST 2006

Dear Nico,

I've kept E. balteatus in the past, and had similar experience.  I suggest also providing
moistened cotton wool (or similar) in a small petri dish for them to drink.  We also
provided pollen in the form of 'bee pollen' which (excuse my failing memory) I think we
bought from Sigma, and again provided in shallow dishes.  More food came in the form of
unpurified honey, dabbed onto a petri dish in small spots.  We had longevity a little
better than you describe.  Activity levels can be low, and we found that we often had to
put large groups in together to get them to behave. In some work we used cages outside
(shaded) and we had better activity from single individuals.  

A couple of refs are:

Golding YC, Sullivan MS, Sutherland JP (1999) Visits to manipulated flowers by
balteatus (Diptera:Syrphidae): partitioning the signal of petals and anthers. Journal of
Insect Behaviour, 12, 39-45.

Sutherland JP, Sullivan MS, Poppy GM (1999) The influence of floral character on the
foraging behaviour of the hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus. Entomologia Experimentalis et
Applicata, 93, 157-164.

Please contact me directly for any further info.

Best wishes,


Dr Matthew Sullivan
Behavioural and Environmental Biology
School of Biology, Chemistry and Health Science
Manchester Metropolitan University
Manchester M1 5GD, UK
Tel +44 (0)161 247 1164
Fax +44 (0)161 247 6325
m.sullivan at mmu.ac.uk

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>>> nico.bluethgen at web.de 24/07/2006 12:08 >>>
Dear colleagues,

does anyone have experience with keeping adult hoverflies happy in captivity? We are
currently trying to perform flower-choice experiments (mostly on Episyrphus balteatus).
However, most of the males and females died after a few days until two weeks with a
largely empty stomach * although we provided large cages (2 x 2 x 1 m), many potted
flowers (of species which they commonly visit) and sufficient moisture (in the flower
pots). We tried to keep them both in cages in the field as well as in climate chambers
(20-22°C, 60% humidity, 16:8 h, 6000 lux), both largely unsuccessful. Although some
individuals sometimes collected pollen on flowers, most sit on the gauze of the cage.
I would be very thankful for any hints and advice.


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