This is neither bee nor wasp but a hoverfly. They are quite harmless and have very interesting lifecycles. Suggest you look them up as I am not an expert and there are many species.
Yes it's a hoverfly (and like all true flies it only has 2 wings whilst bees, wasps have 4 wings ) .
But like Gargoyle, I'm no expert on them; but your fly is definitely one of the Helophilus species.
There is a great little guide for deciding amongst the three most commonly found species of Helophilus here:
In `Hoverflies` by Francis Gilbert it has a picture of your fly. The full name is Helophilus pendulus.
The markings are very striking and there is little doubt in my non-expert mind. The only thing that I cannot be sure of the sex but judging by the eyes it is probably a female. According to the experts the male`s eyes have little space between them and are often touching whilst the females have a gap which I can just see by your photograph. Were there any drains - stagnant water - manure - nearby . The females will get atracted to this to lay their eggs. I had a similar one near my compost last year and I kept having to catch it and let it go because it was in my house.
Most Helophilus species have very very similar markings - which is why I pointed Fiona to the little on-line NatureSpot guide where the differences between H. pendulus, H. trivittatus and H. hybridus are explained.
I have difficulty in differentiating female H. trivittatus from H. pendulus in photographs, but not when I see them - trivittatus is much more virant in colour and somewhat larger - a very striking hover. But these are not characteristics that neccessarily come over in a photograph.
... yes it is a female. This is what the face looks like: http://flic.kr/p/8cgmg9
Sorry I didn`t notice the link!
My book has only the one species and this one stands out against the others. The picture in my book is in two places and the colouring is different for each. Identification is always a tricky business and I sometimes forget in my haste to be helpful. What I do remember about this beastie is that it was very persistant and kept trying to lay egges in my barrel of compost. It had quite a distinguishing buzz. Thats how I knew it was in my house. I have a photo of it somewhere but I cannot remember where. I`ll post it if I find it.
PS Sorry but the beastie in my house was not the same as this but another very striking Hover Fly - Myathropa Florea. Grahame Rotheray i.d.`d it for me last year.
Thank you all very much. I know what a Hover Fly is but I'd never seen one stop for so long to realise that's what they looked like.Do they bite? I also didn't know about the 2/4 wings.
Thank you for taking the time to answer
It's been really interesting and what a pretty little fly
No I don`t believe they bite nor sting. They are mimics and rely on their colouring to give the impression that they are dangerous. Some adult hoverflies eat pollen and their lartvae feed on many different things from aphids to bacteria. Some larvae live in water yet some are very beneficial and eat greenfly/blackfly.