Its scientific name means "dangling sun-lover" (from Greek Helios, "sun", -phil, "love", Latin pend-, "hang"). Like other members of the genus Helophilus it has black and yellow longitudinal stripes on the upper surface of its thorax. The abdomen is patterned with yellow, black and grey. It has a black central face-stripe. It has a wing-length of 8.5 - 11.25 mm.
It is associated with a wide variety of waterbodies, from large lakes and rivers down to areas as small as ditches, small ponds or even muddy puddles. Larvae have even been found in cow-dung, very wet manure or very wet old sawdust. This species visits flowers; it also commonly rests on leaves. It often emits a buzzing sound when resting. It is a notable wanderer and can be found well away from water. The larvae feed on detritus.