common drone fly

(Eristalis tenax)

Conservation Status
common drone fly
Photo by Babette Kis
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable


not listed


Common drone fly is a large, exotic, migratory, cosmopolitan, drone fly. It is native to Europe and Asia. It has been widely introduced and now occurs worldwide on every continent except Antarctica. It has been recorded in the United States in every state except Mississippi and Louisiana but including Alaska and Hawaii, and in every Canadian province except Nunavut. It is common in Minnesota.

The adult is ½ to (11.7 to 15.8 mm) in length. It is similar in shape, appearance, and behavior (Batesian mimicry) to the western honey bee (Apis melifera). The body is robust and hairy.

The head is wider than high and is as broad or slightly broader than the thorax. There are two large compound eyes on the sides of the head and three small simple eyes (ocelli) in a triangle on top of the head. The compound eyes are uniformly dark brown, without colored bands or spots. They are densely covered with short erect hairs and have two broad vertical bands of long erect hairs that are more dense than the short hairs. On the male the compound eyes meet at the top of the head. On the female they do not. The forehead (frons) is black in the middle with a broad pale yellow stripe on each side. The face is slightly projected diagonally forward and downward. It is pale yellow except for a black stripe in the middle that extends all the way to the lower margin. The protruding mouthpart (proboscis) is short and fleshy. The antennae are short, have three segments, and are inserted near the middle of the head. The third antennal segment is long on the upper side, short and rounded on the underside. It has a long, stiff, forward-pointing bristle (arista) above. The arista is feather-like (plumose) at the base. There is no line-like groove (suture) extending downward from the base of each antenna.

The thorax is black, short, and somewhat convex when viewed from the side. It is moderately or densely covered with long, more or less erect, brownish-yellow hairs. The hairs are not dense enough to obscure the ground color, so that when viewed from directly above, the thorax appears black. On each side of the thorax, in the shoulder (humeral) area just behind the head, there is a small plate (postpronotum). The postpronotum is hairy. The small rear part of the thorax (scutellum) is more or less translucent with a variable amount of yellow tinting. It does not have a fringe of hairs.

The abdomen is black with variable orange or yellowish-orange markings. The first segment is very short and is covered with long hairs. The remaining segments are moderately covered with hairs. The second segment has a pair of large spots that narrow toward but do not meet in the middle, and a narrow band on the rear margin. The third segment is shiny and has a variable amount of orange. Generally, it has a narrow orange band on the front and rear margins, and a pair of stripes on each side that sometimes merge together but do not reach the opposite pair in the middle. Sometimes these markings are very faint and the third segment appears entirely black. The fourth segment may have a pair of large spots or be entirely black.

The wings are usually clear. There is sometimes a diffuse brown cloud near the middle, but it is never a well-defined, squarish spot. There is a false (spurious) vein between the radius (R) and media (M) veins and parallel to them. It is not a true vein but rather a streak of discoloration. The radial sector (Rs) vein has two branches. The R4+5 vein is deeply bent (sinuous), appearing “bumped” downward in the middle. The anal cell is long and is closed near the wing margin. Cell R2+3 is closed before the wing margin. The marginal, R1, and M2 cells are also closed.

The legs are black and yellow. The third segment (femur) on the hind leg is moderately thickened and has no spurs, spines, or teeth. The fourth segment (tibia) on all legs is straight or moderately curved. On the hind legs the tibia is entirely dark brown or black.




½ to (11.7 to 15.8 mm)


Similar Species






Early July through early November in Minnesota, year round in the south.




Larvae have a long, tail-like extension of the body (siphon). As they swim through the water searching for food the tip of the siphon remains at the water surface, allowing them to breathe air.

Groups of females have been observed hibernating in crevices and holes in the sandstone caves near St. Paul.

After migrating, individual males disperse, establish a territory, and fiercely defend it.


Life Cycle


Females hibernate in protected areas, but males do not survive the winter. Masses of eggs are laid in small ponds, ditches, drains, and manure lagoons, near the surface of water with high levels of organic matter. Adults emerge in Minnesota beginning in early July. A new generation migrates north in the summer.


Larva Food




Adult Food


Flower nectar


Distribution Map



24, 27, 29, 30, 82, 83.

Telford, Horace S.. (1939). The Syrphidae of Minnesota. University of Minnesota. Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station.




Very common and very widespread



Diptera (flies)  




Muscomorpha (=Cyclorrhapha)  
  Zoosection Aschiza  




Syrphidae (hover flies)  


Eristalinae (drone flies and allies)  


Eristalini (rat-tail maggot flies)  
  Subtribe Eristalina  


Eristalis (drone flies)  
  Subgenus Eristalis  



Eristalis campestris

Musca tenax


Common Names


common drone fly

drone fly

rat-tailed maggot (larvae)












A large bristle on the upper side of the third segment of the antenna of a fly.



On insects and arachnids, the third, largest, most robust segment of the leg, coming immediately before the tibia. On humans, the thigh bone.



The upper part of an insect’s face, roughly corresponding to the forehead.



Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.



The tube-like protruding mouthpart(s) of a sucking insect.



The exoskeletal plate covering the rearward (posterior) part of the middle segment of the thorax in some insects. In Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Homoptera, the dorsal, often triangular plate behind the pronotum and between the bases of the front wings. In Diptera, the exoskeletal plate between the abdomen and the thorax.



On insects, the last two to five subdivisions of the leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. On spiders, the last segment of the leg. Plural: tarsi.



The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.





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Babette Kis


Eristalis tenax (common drone fly)

    common drone fly   common drone fly  
    common drone fly      

Alfredo Colon

    common drone fly      








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Other Videos
  Eristalis tenax
Jorge Iriberri

Dec 1, 2019

Imágenes e información sobre una especie de insectos

  Drone Fly Buzzing Me - Eristalis pertinax - Zweefvlieg in Dutch

Apr 21, 2016

Drone Fly Buzzing Me - Eristalis pertinax - Zweefvlieg in Dutch. "Eristalis pertinax is a European hoverfly." see - I made friends with what I thought was a wasp or bee, but a special hoverfly or fly! Now you know were drones got their name from, this fly! He can hover like the best and landed on my hand a lot. Drone Fly in action!

  Drone fly (Eristalis tenax) Honey bee mimic

Jun 24, 2016

This drone fly or flower fly was on a sunflower next to honey bees, very good imposter, mimic bee. Hoverflies, sometimes called flower flies, or syrphid flies, make up the insect family Syrphidae.




Visitor Sightings

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  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, MN

common drone fly  






Created: 12/13/2022

Last Updated:

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