Golden Pine Fly

Callicera erratica (Walker, 1849)

Dorothy Pugh

Insecta (Insects)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Historical (Possibly extirpated) in New York - Missing from New York; known only from historical records (more than 30 years ago), but still some possibility of rediscovery upon further searching.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently or Demonstrably Secure globally - Uncommon to common in the world, but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors. More information is needed to assign either G4 or G5.


Did you know?

Like many Hover flies (also known as Flower Flies), this species pollinates certain forest trees, shrubs and herbs.

State Ranking Justification

The Golden Pine Fly is rare throughout its range (Skevington et al. 2019) and in New York it is known only from two old records (Leonard 1928). It relies exclusively on old growth pine/oak forests in the southern portion of the state, a threatened and declining habitat. Targeted surveys, incluidng larval searches, in early spring would be needed to confirm that it is not still extant in New York.

Short-term Trends

There have been no searches for this species in many decades, and because of its secretive habits, it is not likely to turn up in broader insect surveys using generalized techniques such as sweep nets or Malaise traps.

Long-term Trends

The species has not been reported from New York since the 1920s. However, Rotheray and MacGowan (1990) found that Callicera larvae are much more common in Scotland than previously believed based on adult-only surveys. Thus, larval searches in suspected habitat would be needed to further confirm its absence.

Conservation and Management


Like all saproxylic (dead wood) insects, this Hover Fly is threatened by modern forestry and land management practices that remove trees from stands before they can reach old age and senescence. In part this is because Callicera larvae are long-lived and can take up to five years before they pupate, while successive generations of flies breed in the same rot holes which usually take more than 100 years to form (Zimina 1987, Rotheray and MacGowan 1990).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

The presence of this species is a clear indicator of old growth forest conditions (Speight 1991; Skevington et al. 2019). Forest management practices allowing longer rotation times (more than 100 years) are required to allow pine and oak trees to reach the advanced stage where suitable rot holes can form.

Research Needs

Virtually nothing is known of this iconic species throughout its entire range in the eastern U.S. Research into any aspect of its biology would be a valuable contribution.



These arboreal, canopy-dwelling flies are confined to old growth pine/oak forests with senescent trees where the larvae live in rotholes and water-filled cavities of old living conifers (often high up in the canopy). Puparia are found in fissures between plates of bark on the host trees.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Appalachian oak-pine forest* (guide)
    A mixed forest that occurs on sandy soils, sandy ravines in pine barrens, or on slopes with rocky soils that are well-drained. The canopy is dominated by a mixture of oaks and pines.
  • Pitch pine-oak forest* (guide)
    A mixed forest that typically occurs on well-drained, sandy soils of glacial outwash plains or moraines; it also occurs on thin, rocky soils of ridgetops. The dominant trees are pitch pine mixed with one or more of the following oaks: scarlet oak, white oak, red oak, or black oak.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

It is known only from Tompkins County and Staten Island (Leonard 1928).

Global Distribution

This rare fly is widely scattered from northern Mississippi to Maine (Skevington et al. 2019).

Identification Comments

General Description

This rather large (1.0 cm) bee-like fly has yellowish-golden pile covering the body. It has a pilose face and the dark antennae are distinctively shaped and elongated. The overall color is brownish- black to steel blue; pile (fly hair) from pale yellowish white to brilliant golden. The face and cheek is shiny. The leg color ranges from partially dark to entirely pale. New York specimens are more likely to be pale pilose with dark legs (Thompson 1980).

Identifying Characteristics

The larva have an extended anal segment bearing a pair of fleshy projections and the thorax contains two groups of 3-4 hooks lateral to the anterior spiracles.

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The golden pile and uniquely shaped elongate, dark antennae are diagnostic for adults. The larva is also very distinctive having fused prolegs and lacking a long extendable breathing tube, despite being semi-aquatic.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Adults are easiest to identify, but larvae and puparia can be much easier to find than the elusive, secretive arboreal adults (Rotheray and Gilbert 2011).


Individuals can be found on hilltops. They often fly to dappled sunlight along water courses to drink.


Pollinating adults have been found feeding on nectar and pollen at cherry and willow flowers and buttercups (Rannunculus). The larvae are saprophagus filter-feeders within wet decaying heartwood in rot-holes. They are adapted for gathering and concentrating micro-organisms suspended in a fluid medium (Rotheray 1993; Skevington et al. in press).

Best Time to See

This is an early spring species with recent records (IL, PA, NC) from late March to late April.

  • Reproducing
  • Larvae present and active

The time of year you would expect to find Golden Pine Fly reproducing and larvae present and active in New York.

Golden Pine Fly Images


Golden Pine Fly
Callicera erratica (Walker, 1849)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Diptera (Flies and Keds)
          • Family Syrphidae

Comments on the Classification

Callicera are so unique that some taxonomists have treated the genus as the sole member of its own subfamily.

Additional Resources


Coe, R.L. 1938. Rediscovery of Callicera yerburyi: its breeding habits, with a description of the larva. Entomologist 71 (900):97-101.

Ghorpade, K.D. 1982. A new Callicera from the northwest Himalaya. Colemania 1(3):163-167.

Krivosheina, M.G. 2002. To the biology of the flies of the genus Callicera with the description of the larvae of C. ziminae. International Journal of Dipterological Research 13:3-8.

Leonard, M. D. ed. 1928. A list of the insects of New York, with a list of the spiders and certain other allied groups. Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station Mem. 101. Ithaca, New York. 1121 pp.

Miranda, G.F.G., A.D. Young, M.M. Locke, S.A. Marshall, J.H. Skevington, and F.C. Thompson. 2013. Key to the genera of nearctic Syrphidae. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification No. 23 (August, 2013). Available online:

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Rotheray, G.E. 1993. Color Guide to Hoverfly (Diptera, Syrphidae) Larvae in Britain and Europe. Dipterists Digest 9; 1-156.

Rotheray, G.E., F. Gilbert. 2011. The Natural History of Hoverflies. Forrest Text, Cardigan, UK.

Rotheray, G.E., and I. MacGowan. 1990. Re-evaluation of the status of Callicera rufa in the British Isles. The Entomiologist 109(1):35-42.

Skevington, J.H., M.M. Locke, A.D. Young, K. Moran, W.J. Crins, S.A. Marshall. 2019. Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Northeastern North America. Princeton University Press, 512 p.

Smit, J. 2014. Two new species of the genus Callicera from the Palaearctic region. Zootaxa 3779(5):585-590.

Speight, M. 1991. Callicera aenea, C. aurata, C. fagesii, and C. macquartii redefined, with a key to and notes on the European species. Dipterists Digest 10:1-25.

Thompson, F.C. 1980. The North American species of Callicera. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 82:195-211.

Zimina, L.V. 1987. Review of the Palaearctic Hoverflies of the genus Callicera. Scripta Technica 1987:128-133.


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Jeffrey D. Corser

Information for this guide was last updated on: January 17, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Callicera erratica. Available from: Accessed May 26, 2024.