Eristalis tenax on Lantana camara
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
Family: Syrphidae
Subfamily: Eristalinae
Tribe: Eristalini
Subtribe: Eristalina
Genus: Eristalis
Latreille, 1804
Type species
Musca tenax
  • Eoseristalis Kanervo, 1938
  • Eristalis Latreille, 1804
  • Elophilus Meigen, 1803,
  • Eristaloides Rondani, 1845
  • Eristalomya Rondani, 1857
  • Eristalomyia Verrall, 1882
  • Helophilus Leach, 1817
  • Tubifera Meigen, 1800
Eristalis arbustorum
Eristalis dimidiata female

Eristalis is a large genus of hoverflies, family Syrphidae, in the order Diptera. Several species are known as drone flies (or droneflies) because they bear a resemblance to honeybee drones.

Drone flies and their relatives are fairly common generalist pollinators,[2] the larvae of which are aquatic, and breathe through a long, snorkel-like appendage, hence the common name rat-tailed maggots.[1][3]

Eristalis is a large genus of around 99 species,[4] and is subdivided into several subgenera and species groups (Eristalomyia, Eristalis, Eoseristalis etc.).

Scientific name and grammatical gender

The scientific name was proposed by Pierre André Latreille in 1804. He placed seven species in his new genus, but listed the names as combinations with Syrphus, so it remained unclear what gender he attributed to the name (the gender of the name Syrphus is masculine). In the two centuries following its publication, Eristalis was sometimes considered to be of feminine gender, sometimes to be of masculine gender. George Henry Verrall (1901)[5] assigned its gender as masculine, a choice followed in British literature, and also in Dutch, Polish, Czech, Spanish and Portuguese literature. In several other European languages and in North America, the tradition was to consider it as a feminine word. In 1993 the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature placed the name on the Official List, and gave its gender as masculine, without justification for that choice.[6] In 2004, Peter Chandler, Andrew Wakeham-Dawson and Angus McCullough submitted an application to confirm the gender of Eristalis as feminine.[7] They referred to ICZN Art. 30.1.1, which states that a name in Latin form takes the gender given for that word in standard Latin dictionaries.[8] In Composition of Scientific Words by R.W. Brown (1954), "eristalis" is listed as a feminine word that refers to an unknown precious stone. The request of Chandler et al. was granted less than two years after submission.[9] As of 2006, Eristalis is officially a word of feminine gender.


For terms see Morphology of Diptera.

As a true fly, the species of the genus Eristalis have a single pair of wings and a pair of halteres. As a member of the family Syrphidae, Eristalis have a spurious vein in the wing. Defined by Latreille in 1804, Eristlis was restricted by Meigen in 1882 to those species with a sinuate vein R4+5 and petiolate cell r1.[10]

Since the origin of the genus Eristalis, many genera have been added that refine the description of Latreille such as Eristalinus, Meromarcrus, Palpada, Helopilus etc. The subtribe Eristalina has been established to contain these genera. Now is generally accepted as which have vein R2+3 sinuate, cell r1 usually petiolate and metafemur with basolateral setose patch. with the addition of the following criteria: anepimeron with triangular portion bare, katepimeron pilose, meron bare posteroventrally, without pile anterior or ventral to metathoracic spiracle, eye pilose.[citation needed]


The larvae of Eristalini are aquatic and of the long-tailed type. Those of Eristalis are very commonly found breeding in putrid or stagnant water or in moist excrement, and are called “rat-tailed maggots” or “mousies”.[11]

The "tail" is actually an extendable breathing tube often used to extend above the waterline. This tube allows the larvae to live in oxygen-depleted water such as sewage and stagnant pools where most other larvae cannot exist. Rat tailed larvae also exploit wet mud, manure and moist rotting vegetation. Many species of Eristalis remain unknown.[12] Working in areas where larvae are likely to be found (e.g. manure pits, sewage seepage and stagnant pools) is difficult and rearing the larvae to adults is even more so. Basic information on many species of Eristalis remain to be discovered.[citation needed]


This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (January 2009)



  1. ^ a b Stubbs, Alan E.; Falk, Steven J (1983). British Hoverflies: An Illustrated Identification Guide (2nd ed.). London: British Entomological and Natural History Society. pp. 253, xvpp. ISBN 1-899935-03-7.
  2. ^ Van Der Kooi, C. J.; Pen, I.; Staal, M.; Stavenga, D. G.; Elzenga, J. T. M. (2015). "Competition for pollinators and intra-communal spectral dissimilarity of flowers". Plant Biology. 18 (1): 56–62. doi:10.1111/plb.12328. PMID 25754608.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thompson, F. Christian (1997). "Revision of the Eristalis flower flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) of the Americas south of the United States" (PDF). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington. 99. Washington D.C.: Entomological Society of Washington: 209–237. ISSN 0013-8797. Retrieved 2009-06-19.
  4. ^ Thompson, F. Christian (2003). "Austalis, a new genus of flower flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) with revisionary notes on related genera" (pdf Adobe/Acobat). Zootaxa. 246. New Zealand: Magnolia Press: 1–19. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.246.1.1. ISSN 1175-5334. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  5. ^ Verrall, G.H. (1901). A list of British Diptera: 22; and, according to Chandler et al., Case 3259 (see there) also in British Flies vol. 8
  6. ^ ICZN (1993). Opinion 1747. Eristalis Latreille, 1804, Helophilus Fabricius, 1805, Xylota Meigen, 1822 and Eumerus Meigen, 1822 (Insecta; Diptera): conserved. The Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 50(3): 256–258
  7. ^ Chandler, P.J., Wakeham-Dawson, A. & McCullough, A. (2004). Case 3259. Eristalis Latreille, 1804 (Insecta: Diptera): proposed confirmation that the gender is feminine; Musca nemorum Linnaeus, 1758, M. arbustorum Linnaeus, 1758 and M. horticola De Geer, 1776 (currently Eristalis nemorum, E. arbustorum and E. horticola): proposed conservation of usage of the specific names by designation of neotypes. The bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 61(4): 241–244
  8. ^ International Code of Zoological Nomenclature Art. 30.1.1
  9. ^ ICZN (2006). Opinion 2153 (Case 3259). Eristalis Latreille, 1804 (Insecta: Diptera): confirmation that the gender is feminine; Musca nemorum Linnaeus, 1758, M. arbustorum Linnaeus, 1758 and M. horticola De Geer, 1776 (currently Eristalis nemorum, E. arbustorum and E. horticola): usage of the specific names conserved by designation of neotypes. The Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 63(2): 146–147
  10. ^ Thompson, F. Christian (1997). "Revision Of The Eristalis Flower Flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) Of The Americas South Of The United States". Entomological Society of Washington. 99.
  11. ^ Wirth, W.W. (1965). Family Syrphidae. In A Catalog of the Diptera of America north of Mexico. Washington, D.C., U.S.A.: United States Department of Agriculture. pp. 557–625.
  12. ^ Rotheray, G.E. (1993). "Colour Guide to Hoverfly Larvae (Diptera, Syrphidae) in Britain and Europe" (PDF). Diperists Digest. Special Edition.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Skevington, Jeffrey H.; Locke, Michelle M.; Young, Andrew D.; Moran, Kevin; Crins, William J.; Marshall, Stephen A. (2019). Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Northeastern North America. Princeton. ISBN 9780691189406.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  14. ^ Wakeham-Dawson, A.; Jones, A.G.; Thompson, F.C. (2009). "Falkland Islands Syrphidae (Diptera)". Dipterists Digest. Second series. 16 (1). UK: Dipterists Forum: 65–71. ISSN 0953-7260.