No flies on Ryan

One of the volunteers takes a break at Murlough National Nature Reserve

Ryan Mitchell, from West Sussex volunteered with us for a year from May 2107. He helped with a variety of conservation management work, but his main passion is for flies.

Ryan has been collecting and identifying flies in the woodland and sand dunes of Murlough and during his time with us, he identified 210 species. Of these, 133 are new to Murlough and 7 have been confirmed as new to Northern Ireland. He believes, once the identification has been confirmed by experts, that the number of new records could be close to 30. While we might think of flies as the annoying ones that buzz around our foods, there are many species that extremely colourful and have amazing lifecycles

How Ryan spends many a day - searching a sweep net for specimens
Ryan checks out his finds in a sweep net
How Ryan spends many a day - searching a sweep net for specimens

Fly favourites

Ryan’s favourite flies are Hoverflies. They are mimics, copying the colouration of wasps, and are gardeners’ friends as their larva feed on aphids. Some, like Chrysotoxum cautum, a large hoverfly, is slightly more specialised with its larvae feeding on root aphids. Ryan explains how to spot the difference between a wasp and a hoverfly. Wasps (and bees) have two pairs of wings. However, all flies, including hoverflies, have only one pair – with a drumstick like structure called a haltere under the wing to help with balance.

Chrysotoxum cautum
Chrysotoxum cautum
Chrysotoxum cautum

Nationally important discoveries

Even among the others there are some which are nationally rare. For example, Chorisops nagatomii, a soldier fly, was a first for Northern Ireland and has only been recorded six times in the whole of Ireland, and Ocytata pallipes a parasitic fly which lays its eggs on earwigs that live on heathland, has only been recorded once before.

These records are a very valuable addition to the species list in this important sand dune habitat, both for the National Trust and the island of Ireland’s biological recording. By recording flies, any changes in the abundance and biodiversity can be monitored, they are great indicators for assessing habitat quality.  

Volunteering can be career boosting

After his volunteering year with us Ryan found employment with Ulster Wildlife and has since moved on to National Museums NI. Volunteering with us gave Ryan more expeirence to take to employers and let him expand his skills, indulge his passion as well as provide us with vital information about our habitats. If you're interested in volunteering with us, see how you can get involved.