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The Diptera are an order of insects, often known as the 'true flies', which have just two wings (hence the name Diptera 'two wings'). All other flying insects have two pairs of wings (i.e four altogether). The hind wings of Diptera are modified as small club-like protrusions called halteres, which assist with balance in flight.

Traditionally, Diptera have been divided into two sub-orders. The Nematocera tend to be spindly, long-legged flies, varying in size from craneflies, through to mosquitoes, gnats and midges. The Brachycera includes the stouter-bodied flies and includes the houseflies, bluebottles and some of the more popular groups such as soldierflies and hoverflies.

The Diptera of Shetland are relatively well-known, largely thanks to the work of the late Brian Laurence of Northumberland who visited Shetland frequently and published a checklist which is the basis of our current knowledge. Currently, several observers in the islands are actively recording Diptera (largely photographically these days). The most familiar and best-known family is Syrphidae, the hoverflies.

An illustrated guide to Shetland hoverflies by Rebecca Nason can be downloaded here and the Shetland species are listed below.

Syrphidae (hoverflies) 46 confirmed spp.



tribe Bacchini

Melanostoma mellinum (Linnaeus, 1758). Resident. First record 1993. Common, mainly uplands.

Melanostoma scalare (Fabricius, 1794) Resident. First record 1995. Common, mainly lowlands.

Platycheirus albimanus (Fabricius, 1781) Resident. First record 1906. Common.

Platycheirus clypeatus (Meigen, 1822) Resident. First record 1985. Uncommon, mainly lowland mires.

Platycheirus manicatus (Meigen, 1822) Resident. First record 1890. Common.

Platycheirus nielseni Vockeroth, 1990 Resident. First record 1985. Scarce.

[Platycheirus occultus Goeldlin, Maibach & Speight, 1990 Unconfirmed: one from Foula 1994 'closest' to this]

[Platycheirus peltatus (Meigen, 1822) Unconfirmed; old records probably P. nielseni]

Platycheirus podagratus (Zettersedt, 1838) Resident. First record 2009. Scarce, Fair Isle and S Mainland only.

Platycheirus ramsarensis Goeldlin, Maibach & Speight ,1990 Resident. First record 1996. Scarce.

Platycheirus scutatus (Meigen, 1822) Resident. First record 1993. Scarce. All records are scutatus sensu lato.

Xanthandrus comtus (Linnaeus, 1758) Immigrant. First record 2000. Infrequent.

tribe Syrphini

Dasysyrphus albostriatus (Fallén, 1817) Resident? First record 2010. C Mainland only part from one Unst 2014.

Dasysyrphus pinastri (De Geer, 1776). Resident? First record 2014. Lerwick only.

Epistrophe grossulariae (Meigen, 1822) Resident? First record 2014. C Mainland only.

Episyrphus balteatus (De Geer, 1776) Immigrant. First record 1957. Occasionally abundant.

Eupeodes corollae (Fabricius, 1794) Immigrant. First record 1894. Occasionally abundant.

Eupeodes lundbecki (Soot-Ryen, 1946) Vagrant. First record 1984. Only 3 or 4 records, last 1996.

Eupeodes luniger (Meigen, 1822) Vagrant. First record 1993. Only 4 records, last 2009.

Eupeodes latifasciatus (Macquart, 1829) Vagrant. First and only record 2018.

Melangyna lasiopthalma (Zetterstedt, 1843) Resident. First record 2018. C & W Mainland.

Meliscaeva auricollis (Meigen, 1822) Immigrant, maybe temporarily resident. First record 1993.

Parasyrphus punctulatus (Verral, 1873) Immigrant? First record 1993. Very scarce.

Scaeva pyrastri (Linnaeus, 1758) Immigrant. First record 1957. Just about annual.

Scaeva selenitica (Meigen, 1822) Immigrant. First record 1914. Slightly less than annual.

Sphaerophoria scripta (Linnaeus, 1758) Immigrant. First record 1994. Scarce and only one confirmed male.

Syrphus ribesii (Linnaeus, 1758) Immigrant. First record 1994. Probably annual (Syrphus sp. annual).

Syrphus torvus Osten Sacken, 1875 Immigrant. First record 1983. Probably annual (Syrphus sp. annual).

Syrphus vitripennis Meigen, 1822 Immigrant. First record 1994. Probably annual (Syrphus sp. annual).


tribe Cheilosiini

[Cheilosia albitarsis Meigen, 1822 Unconfirmed: specimen said to have been collected 1890]

[Cheilosia illustrata (Harris, 1780) Unconfirmed: record from 2010 mapped by HRS]

Rhingia campestris Meigen, 1822. Resident. First record 1890. Common.



tribe Chrysogastrini

Lejogaster metallina (Fabricius, 1781) Resident. First record 1890. Fairly common.

Melanogaster hirtella (Loew, 1843) Resident. First record 1983. Fairly common

Neoascia podagrica (Fabricius, 1775). Resident. First record 1992. Fair Isle and S Mainland only.

Neoascia tenur (Harris, 1780) Resident. First record 1982. Very local on Mainland and Foula.

[Ripponensia splendens (Meigen, 1822) Unconfirmed: Fetlar 1985 but largely a southern species].



tribe Eristalini

Eristalis abusivus Collin, 1931 Resident. First record 1910. Very few records. Overlooked?

Eristalis arbustorum (Linnaeus, 1758) Resident. First record 1890. Common.

[Eristalis horticola (De Geer, 1776) Unconfirmed: specimen said to have been collected in S Mainland in 1949]

[Eristalis interruptus (Poda, 1761) Unconfirmed: records from 1890, 1972 and 1993 but no specimens]

Eristalis intricaria (Linnaeus, 1758) Resident. First record 1890. Common

Eristalis pertinax (Scopoli, 1763) Resident. First record 1990. Common; possibly reinforced by immigration.

[Eristalis similis (Fallén, 1817) Unconfirmed: photo from 2010 inconclusive]

Eristalis tenax (Linnaeus, 1758) Uncertain. First record 1906. Immigrant only? Resident in S Mainland?

Helophilus affinis Wahlberg, 1844 Vagrant. First and only record 1982. Fair Isle (only British record).

Helophilus pendulus (Linnaeus, 1758) Resident. First record 1894. Common; possibly reinforced by immigration

Helophilus trivittatus (Fabricius, 1805) Vagrant. First record 1994. 4 records, last 2020.


tribe Meridontini

Eumerus funeralis Meigen, 1822 Resident. First record 2016. Lerwick only; presumably brought with plants.

Merodon equestris (Fabricius, 1794) Resident. First record 2005. Lerwick only apart from first record indoors Yell. 

tribe Sericomyinii

Sericomyia lappona (Linnaeus, 1758) Resident. First record 1993. Local on Mainland (Unst and Yell?).

Sericomyia silentis (Harris, 1774) Resident. First record 1894. Fairly common.

tribe Xylotini

Syritta pipiens (Linnaeus, 1758) Uncertain. First record 1949. Possibly immigrant, temporarily resident.

Xylota segnis (Linnaeus, 1758) Resident. First record 2008. C Mainland only.

Written by Mike Pennington Updated 6th July 2020

with contributions from Rebecca Nason and Paul Harvey and incorporating information from Shetland Biological Records Centre

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