Ferdinandea cuprea


Species Biology

Preferred environment

Forest; deciduous forest with mature and over-mature trees, including alluvial softwood forest of Populus-Salix, Carpinus-Quercus forest, acidophilus Quercus forest, thermophilous Quercus pubescens and Q.pyrenaica forest and Betula forest. In Ireland, as elsewhere, this is predominantly a species of deciduous woodland (Quercus, Fraxinus and Betula), but with some records away from the immediate vicinity of woods. Given the range of situations in which the larvae are now known to develop, it would be reasonable to conclude that, on occasion, this species can develop in rotting parts of large herbaceous plants, as well as in sap runs on the trunks of trees, potentially accounting for records away from woodland. However, this species can only be regarded as marginally anthropophilic, at most: there is a general lack of records of F. cuprea from farmland, suburban gardens or parks and this species does not occur in association with conifers. Any records from conifer plantations are presumably due to an admixture of deciduous trees surviving with the conifer crop.

Adult habitat & habits

Usually on the trunks of standing, live trees, or on the cut ends of stacked logs of deciduous trees in the sun, or on the ground among leaves etc., in glades, or at the edge of clearings and along tracks etc., also at sap runs.

Flight period

April/September (occasional specimens on into October and, in southern Europe, into November), with peaks in June and August/September. Larva: described by Hartley (1961), who found the larvae in semiaqueous material associated with tree wounds, in Cossus-damaged Populus. Illustrated in colour by Rotheray (1994). Larvae have also been collected from sappy frass or fungus growths in superficial, subbark Cossus tunnels in Quercus (including Q. pubescens) and from sap runs on Quercus where there was no evidence that Cossus was present. Larvae have been found in tree wounds and sap runs on the trunks of living deciduous trees of various sorts, including Acer, Aesculus, Betula, Malus, Populus, Quercus, Salix and Ulmus. Rotheray (1990a) found larvae in association with wet, decomposing tree roots of Quercus and in the tree humus of large trunk cavities in old Quercus. Ricarte et al (2010) report collection of F. cuprea in emergence traps covering holes in trunks of Quercus pyrenaica. Dussaix (2005b) reports finding puparia at the base of living Quercus, where parts of either the trunk-base or roots were rotting. Brunel and Cadou (1994) show that larval development of F. cuprea is not necessarily dependent upon tree exudates, having reared the species successfully and repeatedly from larvae collected in the field from rotting artichoke (Cynara) roots, on which the larvae also fed in the laboratory. They suggest that, on both morphological and behavioural grounds, the larva of F. cuprea should be regarded more as a phytophage than a saprophage. This species overwinters as a puparium (Cadou, pers.comm.).

Flowers visited

Convolvulus, Crataegus, Hieracium, Leontodon, Lonicera, Mentha, Oenothera, Prunus cerasus, Ranunculus, Rosa, Rubus fruticosus agg. Sonchus, Taraxacum, Ulmus.

Irish reference specimens

In the collections of NMI and UM


See Key provided in StN Keys volume. The male terminalia are figured by Coe (1953). The adult insect is illustrated in colour by Kormann (1988), Stubbs and Falk (1983), Torp (1984, 1994) and van der Goot (1981). The male terminalia of the closely related N African species F. fumipennis are figures by Kassebeer (1999b). In the male of F. fumipennis antennal segment three is deeper than long (as in F. aurea), but in the female the shape of this antennal segment is very much as in F. cuprea.


World distribution(GBIF)

Fennoscandia south to southern Spain and north Africa (Algeria) and round the Mediterranean through southern Europe to Turkey; from Ireland eastwards through central/northern parts of Eurasia to the Pacific coast of Siberia and Japan. This syrphid occurs over most of Europe from southern parts of Scandinavia southwards and can be abundant where it is found. It does become more localised in southern Europe however, where it is largely restricted to more humid situations within forest.

Irish distribution

Recorded as occurring in Ireland in Coe (1953). For a deciduous woodland species supposedly associated primarily with mature/overmature trees, F. cuprea is surprisingly well distributed in Ireland, and not infrequent. However, this may be in part due to its apparent ability to survive away from woodland on occasion. 

Temporal change

Records submitted to Data Centre in 2020

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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.