Taxonomy

Meliscaeva auricollis

Distribution

Species Biology

Preferred environment

Many types of forest (both deciduous, broad-leaved evergreen and coniferous) and conifer plantations. Occurs in association with both oak forest and Betula/Salix scrub in Ireland, but is by no means characteristic of either. The wide range of situations in which its larvae can occur (tree foliage, shrubs and tall herbs) and the fact that it can use both aphids and psyllids as larval food, provide this syrphid with potential to exploit a variety of habitats. M. auricollis is to a significant extent an anthropophilic species here, found more frequently in suburban gardens and conifer plantations, than in more natural situations. However, in Ireland M. auricollis is not characteristically a constituent of farmland hedge faunas.

Adult habitat & habits

Trackside and clearings etc.; flies around tree foliage; males hover over tracks etc. at 2 - 5 m.

Flight period

March/October (plus February and November in southern Europe). This species overwinters as an adult and has been found hibernating beneath ivy (Hedera) on the walls of an old house (P. Goeldlin, pers.comm.). In southern Europe, adults can be found on the wing during mid-winter, in sheltered spots on days of sunshine. Larva: literature references to description of the larva of this species are confused. According to Rotheray (1994) the larva of M. auricollis has a posterior respiratory process with a basal, sclerotised ring, which distinguishes it from the larva of M. cinctellus, where this ring is absent. However, according to Dixon (1960) it is the larva of M. cinctellus that has a basal, sclerotised ring to its posterior respiratory process, distinguishing it from the larva of M. auricollis, in which this ring is absent. Here, it is assumed that the determinations of Rotheray (1994) are correct and those of Dixon (1960) are incorrect, in which case the posterior respiratory process of the larva of M. auricollis is figured, in lateral view, by Dixon (1960), under the name M. cinstellus. Rotheray (1994) does not seem to be aware of the contradictions between the descriptions of the larva of M. auricollis provided by himself and Dixon (1960), because he quotes Dixon (1960) as the source of the information that M. auricollis has been reared from among aphids found on Sarrothamnus, which must relate to M. cinctellus if his definition of the larva of M. auricollis is correct. The larva of M. auricollis is aphid-feeding on trees (e.g. Castanea, Crataegus, Fagus), shrubs (e.g.Viburnum), lianas (e.g. Hedera) and tall herbaceous plants, including some crop species (Nicotiana, Triticum). It has also been found feeding on psyllids (Aphalaridae: Homoptera) on olive trees (Olea) by Rojo et al (1999), where larval development can take only 2 weeks and the adult hatches after a puparial phase lasting only 8-9 days. Jones (2001) reports rearing M. auricollis from Pemphigus (Aphididae) galls on Populus. The larva of this species may be separated from the larva of M. cinctella in the keys provided by Rotheray (1994). Kula (1982) records larvae of this species as overwintering among leaf litter on the floor of spruce (Picea) forest. Egg: Chandler (1968).

Flowers visited

White umbellifers; Arbutus unedo, Chaerophyllum, Euonymus, Euphorbia, Filipendula, Hedera, Rubus, Salix, Sorbus, Viburnum opulus. An extended list of flowers visited may be found in de Buck (1990).

Irish reference specimens

In the collections of NMI and UM

Determination

van der Goot (1981). The male terminalia are figured by Dusek and Laska (1967) and Hippa (1968b) (as Episyrphus). The adult insect is illustrated in colour by Stubbs and Falk (1983), whose figures show the range of variation exhibited by the abdominal markings in this species. Other coloured figures of the adult insect appear in Torp (1984, 1994) and van der Goot (1986).

Distribution

World distribution(GBIF)

Fennoscandia and the Faroes (Jensen, 2001) south to Iberia, the Mediterranean (including Cyprus, Malta and Crete), Canary Isles, N Africa, Turkey and Israel; Ireland eastwards through most of Europe into European parts of Russia. Considering this species' capacity for long distance movement together with the reality that it has probably been on the edge of its climatic range here - it reached northwards in western Europe only to the southern tip of Norway as recently as 10 years ago (Nielsen, 1999) - suggests that the existing Irish distribution pattern may in part be a consequence of recent changes in climatic conditions. In the previous version of these species accounts (Speight, 2000) it was suggested that M. auricollis would be an appropriate candidate for monitoring, in any attempt to use insects in climatic warming studies in Ireland, since it would be expected that this species would establish more permanent populations over much of the island as climatic amelioration occurred, leading rapidly to it becoming generally distributed here, due to the general availability of appropriate habitat.

Irish distribution

Recorded as occurring in Ireland in Coe (1953). Until recently, the available distribution records for this syrphid in Ireland were scattered round the periphery of the island, few records originating further than 20km from the coast. It is well-established that the adults of M. auricollis undertake long distance movements, though not on the scale of the classic "migrators" among European syrphids, like Episyrphus balteatus, and it would be typical for such movements to occur along the coast. There is no reason to suppose that such movements would be confined to immigrant specimens arriving in Ireland from elsewhere. They could equally easily be undertaken by elements of the resident Irish population of the species. Latterly, M. auricollis has been recorded from conifer plantations in much of the southern half of the island and it can only be concluded that it is now established in these plantations and expanding its range through them quite rapidly.

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2021

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References

Publications

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.

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