Bee Fly Flying

Bee Fly Bombylius major

I had a visitor today. This Bee Fly (Bombylius major) was feeding from one of my Grape Hyacinth blooms between April showers.

Bee Fly Bombylius major

Bee Fly Bombylius major

It must be tiring work all this high speed buzzing about, as it had to take a rest on a stone in the warm spring sunshine.

Bee Fly Bombylius major

Bee Fly Bombylius major

Bee Fly Bombylius major

Bee Fly Bombylius major

It has been a very changeable morning with the light, having to keep altering the camera settings as the sun ducked in out of the clouds like it was playing some kind of celestial hide-and-seek, but at least it hasn’t rained yet. I went on one of my walks through the local woodland, mainly looking for one of my very favourite spring wild flowers, the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria). As I enjoyed the yellow splendour of early spring I happened upon this extraordinary little fellas, who was drinking from this sweet flower cup.

One may be forgiven for thinking this is a bee, or even a hoverfly, but it is in fact a fly called, rather confusingly, a Bee Fly (Bombylius major). It mimics a bee as a defence mechanism, and it sure fooled me at first glance! One cannot help but take notice of the almost needle-like proboscis which, in the image above, can be seen sprinkled in fine pollen as it probes the centre of the flower.

I observed it for a short while as it hovered from flower to flower, taking a sip here and there, before I lost sight of it.

To learn more about this interesting fly please visit my previous blog “To Be Or Not To Be A Bee But a Fly”.

Grey Mining Bee

Andrena cineraria

I came across this small mining bee as I walked along a dirt path alongside a canal bordering a horse pasture. It was hovering a few inches above the soil before it landed and allowed me to take these photographs.

Also called the ‘Ashy Mining Bee’, the females are mainly black in colour with two bands of greyish white hairs at the front and rear of the thorax, and has a shiny black abdomen. The males are similar but they lack the thoracic bands, insead being covered with finer greyish white hairs. Length up to 15mm.

It excavates burrows in the ground.

Seen April to June. Often seen hovering just above the ground in spring. Found in woodland clearings and rides, gardens and parks, and other habitats. Widespread and common.

Photographs taken May 2015, local field, Staffordshire.

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.