Rare Phantom hoverfly found at Ashridge

Phantom hoverfly Ashridge top

There’s a hoverfly species so rare it’s been named the ‘Phantom’. Yet this summer a Phantom hoverfly was spotted near Ivinghoe Beacon on the Ashridge Estate.

The red-listed hoverfly was discovered by National Trust entomologist Peter Brash while surveying at Ashridge. It is believed to be the first recorded sighting of the species in the Chilterns. It satisfied a lifelong ambition for the insect expert. 'I first saw a picture of the Phantom hoverfly 23 years ago and immediately wanted to see it,' said Peter.

The Phantom hoverfly spotted at Ashridge
Phantom hoverfly Ashridge front

Nobody knows much about this enigmatic hoverfly. Some say it only survives for around ten days as an adult, whilst others say that it stays in the tree canopy and only descends to the ground to breed.

The Rangers at Ashridge have created the perfect conditions for the Phantom. The 1.5cm hoverfly lives on chalk grassland, favouring shaded areas near scrub. 

Walkers at Ivinghoe Beacon on the Ashridge Estate
Ivinghoe Beacon on the Ashridge Estate

Ashridge estate is managed for conservation and to create a diverse range of habitats. Much of the chalk downland habitat at Ashridge is managed with the Duke of Burgundy butterfly in mind, which relies on plants like the cowslip for its food. The Duke of Burgundy is one of the most rapidly declining butterflies in the UK.  

" The great scale of the estate enables us to create the right kinds of habitats for a range of species across a whole landscape. Chalk grassland is like our very own tropical rain forest, it’s a grassland jungle and literally teeming with life."
- Lawrence Trowbridge, Lead Ranger Ashridge Estate

We’re delighted the Phantom hoverfly has found a new haunt here with us at Ashridge.