Melangyna quadrimaculata


Species Biology

Preferred environment

Old deciduous forest, humid Fagus and Quercus, in particular. Can also occur in extensive urban/suburban parks in which overmature/mature trees have been retained. This species has only been found in Ireland in association with relict patches of mature oak forest. It is not recorded from conifer plantations. It is one of the earliest syrphids on the wing, but not early enough to use Corylus flowers, which it apparently uses in central Europe. In Ireland, M. quadrimaculata uses flowers of Salix species as a food source.

Adult habitat & habits

Primarily arboreal, but descends to visit trees and shrubs in flower, usually at sheltered locations within woodland; normally uses taller trees in flower, when these are available

Flight period

End February/end April. Larva: described and figured by Rotheray (1988a), from larvae collected on Abies alba, and figured in colour and separated from larvae of some other Melangyna species in the keys of Rotheray (1994). This species apparently overwinters as a puparium.

Flowers visited

Alnus, Anemone nemorosa, Carpinus, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, Corylus, Hamamelis mollis, Lonicera xylosteum, Populus tremula, Salix, Sambucus, Tussilago.

Irish reference specimens

In the collections of NMI and UM


Speight (1988a); Bartsch et al (2009a). Melanic females of M.lasiophthalma (Zett.) are frequently misidentified as females of M. quadrimaculata. These two species can be found in flight together. The male terminalia are figured by Hippa (1978). The adult insect is illustrated in colour by Kormann (1988), Stubbs and Falk (1983), Torp (1984, 1994) and Bartsch et al (2009a).


World distribution(GBIF)

Southern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark south to Belgium; from Ireland eastwards through central Europe into European parts of Russia and on through Siberia to the Pacific coast (Sakhalin). This species would also be regarded as threatened in some other parts of Europe. But the situation is not consistent. It would not be considered as threatened in Britain, but is regarded as threatened in Switzerland, for instance.

Irish distribution

Recorded as occurring in Ireland in Coe (1953). M. quadrimaculata exhibits a relict distribution pattern in Ireland and can very reasonably be categorised as threatened here. It would be a candidate for inclusion on any listing of insects requiring protection at national level. 

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2022

The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.



Speight, M. C. D. (2008) Database of Irish Syrphidae (Diptera). Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 36. National Parks and Wildlife Service. Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.

Speight, M.C.D. (2014) Species accounts of European Syrphidae (Diptera), 2014. Syrph the Net, the database of European Syrphidae, vol. 78, 321 pp., Syrph the Net publications, Dublin.