New Chiltern haunt for rare Phantom Hoverfly

The chance sighting of a globally rare hoverfly in the Chiltern Hills has satisfied a lifelong ambition for one National Trust insect expert.

The Phantom Hoverfly was spotted near Ivinghoe Beacon on the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate by the conservation charity’s expert entomologist, Peter Brash.

It is believed to be the first recorded sighting of the red-listed hoverfly species in the Chilterns. Across England there are approximately 1-2 recorded sightings of the rare insect every year.

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Phantom Hoverfly, pictured on a bramble leaf. (c) Peter Brash/National Trust

Peter Brash of the National Trust’s Biological Survey Team captured beautiful close up images of the hoverfly whilst surveying for wildlife at Ashridge last week. The Biological Survey team undertakes regular monitoring of wildlife on National Trust estates.

He said: “I first saw a picture of the Phantom Hoverfly 23 years ago and immediately wanted to see it. Nobody knows much about this enigmatic hoverfly. Some say it only survives as an adult for ten days, whilst others say that it stays in the tree canopy and only descends to the ground to breed.”

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Phantom Hoverfly, pictured on a bramble leaf (c) Peter Brash/National Trust

About the Phantom Hoverfly (Doros profuges)

  • It is 1.5 cm long and has black and yellow bands across its body
  • The Phantom Hoverfly has an extensive range, with recorded sightings stretching from Finland to Spain and Ireland to Japan.
  • This is thought to be the first ever recorded sighting of the Phantom Hoverfly in the Chiltern Hills.
  • The Phantom Hoverfly is listed as a priority species on the UK Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan.
  • The discovery of the hoverfly at Ashridge shows the benefits of the rangers’ nature-first approach in managing the estate’s chalk downland habitat.

Lawrence Trowbridge, Lead Ranger at the National Trust’s Ashridge Estate, said: “The sheer scale of the estate enables us to create the right kinds of habitats for a range of species to thrive across a whole landscape. The chalk grassland at Ashridge is teeming with life. Knowing what species we have is key and surveys carried out by our experts like Pete enable us to consider how our conservation work can benefit these rare creatures”.

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Phantom Hoverfly, pictured on a bramble leaf (c) Peter Brash/National Trust

The Ashridge Estate stretches over 2,000 hectares of countryside in the Chilterns and comprises beech and oak woodlands, commons and chalk downland. Acquired in stages by the National Trust from 1927, Ashridge is home to a range of wildlife and plants, including orchids, rare butterflies and fallow deer. The estate is open to the public all year round.

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