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Is that a bee?

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 23 Apr 2010 at 04:20 PM

The sound of buzzing is more noticeable every day, as increasing numbers of flying insects take to the air, going about their business of finding food, mating and building nests. Up at the garden I saw what at first sight looked very much like a small bee. Only it wasn’t a bee at all, but a fly that pretends it’s a bee – the bee fly, Bombylius major.

Look at that shadow!

It’s done a good job of its disguise, having a yellowish, hairy body with faint stripes across it and bee-like wings, but look closer and you can see the body is too round for a real bee. In fact, it doesn’t have the same shaped  body at all and then there is the very un-bee-like spike of the proboscis (tongue). The flight is different too – honey bees fly quite quickly from flower to flower, but bee flies dart about and change direction very abruptly.

Whilst both species will feed on nectar, bee flies parasitise the nests of solitary bees of the ground-nesting Andrena species, laying eggs in their nests. To do that, though, there must be enough solitary bee nests around for them to lay their eggs in, so I suppose that there must be plenty of solitary bees in the area.

There are some real bees at the garden. Nearby is an old cottage and in one wall there is a hole next to a wooden beam. Wild honey bees have found the hole and made a home in the wall. Luckily for us, they come into the garden every day and on sunny days like today, you can see them against the sky as they fly in and out of their front door. 

 You can just see five bees approaching the hole in the wall


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on 23 Apr 2010 at 05:27 PM

hyacinth said:

I thought the bees were spots on my screen...

will look out for the bee fly, I wonder if I have any

on 23 Apr 2010 at 05:32 PM

richardpeeej said:

Hi Miranda you did well to capture the bee fly before it flew off. I'm sure I wouldn't have the same luck-I would have thought that it was a bee too!!

Good capture of the five bees flying into the hole in the wall. They nearly look like the 'Ursa Major' constellation.

Very informative article... Richard

on 23 Apr 2010 at 09:31 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

It was tricky, Richard. I followed it about until it landed and then snuck up on it :-)

hyacinth - let me know if you see any. They are partial to primrose flowers so if you have some of those, you may well see bee flies.

on 25 Apr 2010 at 11:24 AM