Aspen hoverfly (Hammerschmidtia ferruginea)

Aspen hoverfly adult
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Aspen hoverfly fact file

Aspen hoverfly description

GenusHammerschmidtia (1)

This hoverfly is dark in colour with an orange thorax(3).

Brachyopa ferruginea.

Aspen hoverfly biology

This hoverfly feeds on micro-organisms associated with decomposition. Adults are present during summer, and feed on nectar from plants such as bramble (4). The eggs are laid in wet rot holes on fallen or standing dead aspen trees (3). The larvae then develop in the wet rotting wood below the bark (2).


Aspen hoverfly range

Before 1990 this fly was known from just eight Scottish sites. It has not declined since it was first discovered in 1905 and has always been one of Britain’s rarest hoverflies (4).The fly is now known to occur in 12 sites in northeast Scotland, after a thorough survey by the Malloch Society (4). It is thought to be endangered in Europe (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Aspen hoverfly habitat

This species is an indicator of ancient woodlands (2). It is found only in large mature aspen (Populus tremula) woodlands or pine and birch woodlands with some aspen (4). Only stands of aspen larger than 4.5 hectares in size are suitable to maintain this species (2).


Aspen hoverfly status

Classified as Endangered in Great Britain and listed as a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (2).


Aspen hoverfly threats

Large stands of aspen are rare in Britain; aspen stands have been damaged by road building, and underplanting with conifers. Furthermore, in many woodlands fallen wood is often removed and rabbits or deer may feed on the bark of fallen trees, which removes the unique habitat of this species. This species requires a constant supply of dead wood, but at many sites a suitable range of trees of varying age structures is not present; saplings are often browsed and killed by deer and rabbits, while forestry techniques tend to result in a lack of mature trees (4). A further threat is that of over-collecting by entomologists (4).


Aspen hoverfly conservation

The aspen hoverfly is a priority under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) and a Species Action Plan has been produced in order to coordinate conservation action targeted at this species (2). The RSPB has taken on the role of ‘lead partner’ for this and another rare hoverfly, the pine hoverfly (Blera fallax) since they were found on RSPB-owned sites. With Scottish Natural Heritage, they are funding a programme of work on these species, carried out by the Malloch Society (for details of this work please follow the link below) (4). Two of the woodlands supporting this species are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and one is a National Nature Reserve (NNR). The UK BAP Species Action Plan aims to maintain all known populations, enhance the size of these populations and to reintroduce the species to three sites by the year 2010 (4).

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For more on this species see:

 For information on invertebrates and their conservation see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Part of the body located near the head in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (January 2004)
  2. UK Biodiversity Action Plan (January 2004)
  3. RSPB Biodiversity (January 2004)
  4. North East Scotland Biodiversity. Aspen hoverfly (Hammerschmidtia ferruginea) Local Biodiversity action Plan (January 2004)

Image credit

Aspen hoverfly adult  
Aspen hoverfly adult

© National Museums of Scotland

National Museums of Scotland


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