To Be Or Not To Be A Bee But A Fly

The Bee Fly (Bombylius major) may have been seen visiting your garden this spring, and one could be forgiven for thinking it to be a bee at first glance. It is in a fact a fly which mimics a bee. I found this one basking in the warm sun on an old log in my back garden. Note the long, almost needle-like probosis.

This is quite an unmistakable fly with its brown furry body, long, needle-like proboscis, and dark-edged wings. It also has long hairy legs. Despite the length of its proboscis, and that the insect itself resembles a bee, this fly does not sting and is harmless. Length 10 to 12mm.

The larvae is a parasite living in the nests of solitary bees and wasps, feeding not only on the host’s food store but the host’s larvae. The adults mimic bees so they can get close to the host nest so the female can flick her eggs inside it. The adults feed on nectar.

It flies March to June, and occurs in a variety of habitats, including gardens. Common and widespread in southern England, the Midlands and southern Wales, but scarce in southern Scotland, and absent further north.

Photograph taken April 2013, rear garden, Staffordshire.

4 thoughts on “To Be Or Not To Be A Bee But A Fly

  1. I’m surprised that simple mimicry works for getting to the nest. I thought bees had highly developed pheromones that would detect an intruder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nature has an amazing way of getting around these issues, and no doubt some insects mask or counteract the pheromones. Thank you for your comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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