Another bee mimic

Flower gardens are in bloom up and down the street, so I took a stroll to see what insects I could find on the rich diversity of flowers available right now.  There should be lots of bees gathering nectar and pollen from those flowers, right?

robber fly-bumblebee mimic

robber fly-

Is this a bumblebee?  Hmm… doesn’t look quite right.


Well, let’s compare these two bumblebees on a dahlia with that “bee” above.

The bumblebee pretender has only one pair of wings, big bug eyes, no pollen baskets on those big hind legs, funny looking feet (not bee-like), and a big proboscis that sticks straight out from its head rather than straight down, like a bee’s would.  It looks like a bee, flies like a bee, even hums like a bee — but it’s a fly!  More specifically a robber fly, a predator of bees and other flying and crawling insects.

robber fly-bumblebee mimic

A closer look at this robber fly-bumblebee mimic nicely shows off his predatory apparatus.  Robber flies dart out and catch prey with their spiny legs, then ram their proboscis right into an unsuspecting insect, inject some salivary enzymes into the prey via the proboscis, and slurp back the digested material.

Laphria-Myrmecos blog-Alexander Wild

A bee-mimicking Robber Fly (Laphria species) attacks and consumes a honeybee. Photo by Alexander Wild.

There were only a couple of bees in the garden today — many fewer than I would have expected.  But there were lots of bee mimics, hoverflies, robber flies, and others.  Where are all the bees?  Do you see bees in your garden?  Look closely, what you’re seeing could be bee mimics.

11 thoughts on “Another bee mimic

  1. Very few bees in my garden this year. Since my gardens are bursting with loveliness, the bees should be here. I fear it’s the round-up sprayed on the nearby corn fields. So sad.

    • What surprises me is that there are no bumblebees either. Honeybees are rare here, unless there are hives nearby, but we have always had bumblebees in the garden in past years.

      • We have a few bumblebees, but certainly not as many as I like to see. I suspect our liberal use of pesticides and herbicides is the culprit. I’ve eliminated all from my parcel of land.

    • It might indirectly shorten the life of the hive because glyphosate does reduce honeybee’s foraging instinct for nectar rewards (according to a couple of scientific publications). Thanks for asking, Philip!

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