Now that daffodils are beginning to bloom – profusely so in some places – it’s time to look for the daffodil fly, Norellia spinipes. It’s a non dung-eating dung-fly (family Scathophagidae), an elegant elongated creature with a grey and red body and pale orange legs. Its larvae mine daffodil leaves, and can apparently cause limited damage to bulbs but are probably of little concern to gardeners. Indeed I would suggest they add an extra layer of charm to a daffodil patch by attracting this beautiful fly, and the opportunity to have fun hunting it down at this time of year.
The thing to do is to walk along the edge of a daffodil patch, and carefully inspect each leaf for resting flies. I usually find sunny conditions most productive. When you see one, try to get closer and either take a photograph or catch one in a small tube for inspection. There are sixty or so members of the dung fly family in Britain, but only one other has a row of obvious spines on the front femur. They should be clearly visible with a hand lens. If your fly was resting on a daffodil, generally resembles the one pictured here, and possesses the characteristic row of spines, then it is most likely a daffodil fly! If you disturb any, dung flies tend to make short, direct flights, so try to track it and watch carefully where it lands. The one pictured below did this and alighted on a nearby tree.
So far I’ve not found them anywhere other than Whiteknights Park – I was hoping to find one in Dunsford Wood, Devon last spring somewhere in the spectacular carpet of wild daffodils. Norellia was most likely imported to Britain on bulbs, so is generally associated with domestic daffs, but I don’t imagine that precludes it feeding on wild flowers. One year on and I’ll get another try at Dunsford Wood this weekend, with any luck. We have an action-packed weekend planned incorporating rock pools in Torbay, birding high-tide on the Exe estuary, beetling on heathland and the aforementioned woodland walk. Watch this space (and Considering Birds) to see what we find!