bee “wanna-be”

There is an entire family of bee “wanna-bes”, the stocky-bodied Bombyliidae flies, comprising roughly 5,000 species world-wide.  They are important pollinators, especially in arid areas, taking both pollen and nectar from many different plant species.

Bee fly, possibly genus Anthrax

Big head, lightly haired abdomen, stocky body, swept-back wings, and short front legs characterize the bee flies. They hover near flowers, much like a hoverfly would. Many species have striking patterns of pigmentation on their wings.

bee fly, possibly genus Anthrax

Of course it’s energetically cheaper to just land and walk around the flower to probe for nectar, as bees might do.  

bee fly, possibly genus Anthrax

Although the adults take their nutrition from flowers, bee fly larvae develop within a host beetle or bee body, gradually consuming it as they develop.

Bee flies lay their eggs on beetle, grasshopper, and bee (often, solitary bees) larvae, which the bee-fly larvae then gradually consume as they develop (i.e., parasitoids), eventually killing their host.  In this way, they are important predators of the host group of insects.

Some bee flies mimic actual bees so closely, they are often mistaken for them.

European bee fly, Bombylius major

With its furry body and hovering flight close to the ground, this Euopean bee fly looks very much like a bee, except for its single pair of wings,  the ultra short antennae, and ultra-long proboscis.  Photo from Wikipedia by Richard Bartz.

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