Friday, April 11, 2008

Bee fly

bee fly
Major bee-fly, a.k.a. Greater bee-fly, Bombylius major.

Bee flies are what they sound like: flies that resemble bees. This one is the one we see most here, though there are several similar species in the family Bombyliidae.

See photos of several of them at Giff Beaton's site. (You know there are a lot of members in the family when there's a World Catalog of them.)

They hover about like small cute bumblebees, and they don't seem to mind drawing attention to themselves, the way they'll hover in the same position for quite a while. I've also seen them dart back and forth between two positions a foot or so apart -- if it were a bird, you'd say it was a mating dance, though I would assume that flies don't do that.

According to this site, "Its larvae are brood parasites and are found in bees' nests. Adults feed on nectar, using their long proboscises whilst hovering beside a flower." The whilst there should give you a clue that this fly is also found in England.

BugGuide has a species account here with more details, and some nice shots of them hovering.

I haven't found any one article detailing information about this bee-fly, but there are lots of links highlighting certain aspects of their behavior:

Drawing up sand or sawdust to coat eggs (here).

Comparing them, as generalist pollinators, to more species-specific pollinators (here).

Wingbeats in B flat? (here)


Friday Ark is here.


nina at Nature Remains. said...

Pretty little creature.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I saw one of those in my woods last weekend, but it never stayed still long enuf for me to make a confident identification. How do you wildlife photographers do it?

Barbee' said...

I wonder if we have them in central KY. I will notice more closely if I see something behaving that way. Interesting.

Bobby said...

All I know is, stay away from them killer bees - Orlando Sentinel:

So-called killer bees may have claimed their first human victim in Florida, state officials said Friday in announcing a fatal attack earlier this week in remote Okeechobee County.

Lets Plant said...

Very interesting!!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful, interesting blog you have. Jasmine is such a good looking gal! I would just like to give her a cuddle if she lets me.
Anyway I think I have to keep track of your garden.

R.Powers said...

I posted a shot of one of these a waaay back, but mine must have been a different species.
Great shot!

On your previous post, I bet that was a treat listening to such a creative gardner!

Texas Travelers said...

Nice post and photo. that's why you are on my favorites blogroll. So I can keep up with cool stories like this.


Have a great week.

DeeMom said...

Bee Flies have a HUGE Proboscis

great picture and information...

chey said...

Very interesting fly! I've never seen one like this before. Great photo!

Nora said...

We have the orchard bees here and they look like a fly...we take good care of them and raise them, in the winter they can be kept in a cool shed or the fridge and they are much better at pollination than our local bees which we are short of. Our indigenous bee has almost disappeared here.

Rurality said...

Nina, yeah they're pretty cool, for a fly especially!

Pablo, this one was a little cool I guess... it's actually the first time I've seen one sit still on the ground like that. I was holding the dog while my husband took this picture.

Barbee, yes I think so, they are very widespread. They look and act just like bees.

Bobby, I hate to hear that! They say those bees will keep moving north, too.

LP, thanks!

Trudi, thanks, Jasmine will slobber all over you if you let her. :)

FC, yeah they don't always slow down enough for you to pin down which type it is.

TexTrav, thanks! I have been enjoying your blog too.

DM, yep, I guess that is a clue that they sip nectar.

Chey, thanks, I'd never noticed them before we moved out to the country. Apparently they like woodland edges a lot.

IRB, that's kind of funny that your bee looks like a fly, and this fly looks like a bee... sorry to hear your native ones are almost gone!

lisa said...

So interesting! Thank you for all the links...some of them look like deer flies to me, hope they don't bite like them. I like the name "Bombylius Major"...sounds like a strong Ruler-"Bombillius The Great"!

Christopher Taylor said...

I've also seen them dart back and forth between two positions a foot or so apart -- if it were a bird, you'd say it was a mating dance, though I would assume that flies don't do that.

No need to assume - some flies do have mating flights. I don't know about bee flies in particular, but Life in the Undergrowth (also known as The Gospel According to David Attenborough) has a segment on hover flies showing of their flying prowess to females by trying to hover in one spot for as long as possible.

Rurality said...

Lisa, ha, yeah!

Christopher, thanks so much! It's interesting that flies do that too.