Sheep’s-bit Hoverfly

Fast Facts

Latin name: Eumerus sabulonum

Notable feature: A small, dark looking hoverfly with distinct hair bands on the body and enlarged femur on the hind leg. Only species of Eumerus in the UK with red markings on the abdomen.

Conservation Status: Least Concern

Where in the UK: A scarce species found on cliffs and sand dunes along the west coast of England, Wales and into southern Scotland. Listed as National Rarity status: Nationally Scarce (GB)

Sheep's-bit Hoverfly (Eumerus sabulonum) © Steven Falk


The Sheep’s-bit Hoverfly (Eumerus sabulonum) is a small, native hoverfly.  A scarce species found on cliffs and sand dunes along the west coast of England, Wales and into southern Scotland.

A small, dark hoverfly with distinct hair bands on its body (abdomen) and an enlarged femur on the hind leg. This species is distinct in having a reddish coloured abdomen (compared with the other species of Eumerus recorded in the UK). The moderately swollen hind femur is devoid of long hairs beneath (the stout black spines being almost as long as any of the hairs).

    • Size: Length of each wing measures between 3.25-5.25 mm.
    • Life span:  Likely annual life cycle; about a year from egg to adult.
    • Diet: Larvae are associated with Sheep’s-bit (Jasione montana), this is their only known food source.  Adults can be found feeding on the flowers of this species and potentially other plants too.
    • Reproduction: Females have been observed laying eggs into the base of Sheep’s-bit. Larvae have been found feeding singly in small cavities surrounded by brown plant tissue at the bases of the leaves.
    • When to see:  Adults can be seen from May to September, peaking in June and July.
    • Population Trend:  The Sheep’s-bit Hoverfly population is listed as stable (ICUN Red List).
    • Threats: Pressure on habitat, loss and decline of plant food source (Sheep’s-bit), impact on dune habitat. This is a scarce and elusive hoverfly (in the UK) mostly recorded from southern and western coastal districts between Dorset and Ayrshire. Habitats used include dry cliff-top heathland and grassland, coastal dunes, soft-rock cliffs and coastal brownfield sites.
    • Fun Fact:  The larval foodplant is Sheep’s-bit and adults will visit the flowers. Sweeping areas with this plant in summer is one of the easiest ways of recording it. The adults look very much like small solitary bees in the field and often bask on bare ground.

How you can help: 

Buglife is working to increase awareness of invertebrates and the Sheep’s-bit Hoverfly through specific projects, including B-Lines, and campaigns such as “Ardeer Peninsula – Scotland’s bee haven“, but we need your help!

Buglife B-Lines are an imaginative and beautiful solution to the problem of the loss of flowers and pollinators. B-Lines are a series of ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, along which we are restoring and creating a series of wildflower-rich habitat stepping stones. Linking existing wildlife areas together, creating a network, like a railway, that will weave across the UK landscape.  More information about B-Lines and how you can help pollinators can be found on our B-Lines & Pollinator Projects pages.

Get involved with the Hoverfly recording scheme or download the iRecord app and get recording!

Do remember that we rely on donations to continue our work.  If you have searched, found and learnt about our incredible invertebrates on our website, please do consider Making a Donation, Becoming a Member or maybe even making a purchase in our shop.  For more ideas on how to support our work find out how to Get Involved.  Thank you 🕷