Looking for bees in the garden the other day, I came across an insect that looked a lot like a honeybee or small bumblebee, but something was not quite right.
It’s the eyes — they’re too large and round, and the antennae are too short. It must be a bee mimic fly.
I think my bee mimicking fly is a Narcissus bulb fly, and if so, my iris, lillies, and chives are in trouble. Adults feed on the nectar and pollen of a wide variety of flowers.
But their larvae infest the soft tissues of the bulbs of these perennials. Females lay from 40 to 100 eggs at the base of a leaf of bulb-forming plants, and the larvae crawl down into the soil and burrow into the bulb, eventually hollowing it out completely as they feed and mature to pupal stage. Lillies, iris, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, etc, are all susceptible to infestation.
There doesn’t seem to be a good way to control these pests, introduced from Europe, probably along with bulbs, in the late 1800s. Their strong bee mimicry makes most insect predators leave them alone. Apparently, if you grow bulb-bearing plants in your garden, you’re very likely to have these destructive pests present.