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.

bumblebees-and-dahlias-

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.

feasting on pollen

Back in Minnesota, the peonies have just about finished blooming.  Their fragrance and color make them a hit in my garden, but the bees and flies seem to love their pollen.

syrphid fly eating peony pollen

Very small hoverflies, not much bigger than the anthers of the peony, crawled around on them searching for some pollen to eat.

syrphid fly eating peony pollen-

Their eyes almost match the color of the peony petals.

bee pollinating peony-

What looked like small bumblebees were gathering pollen on their enlarged back legs

bee pollinating peony-

And then there was this strange bee mimicking fly…

Another species of hoverfly, perhaps an Eristalis species, hovered around the flowers and sat on the leaves.  It looks just like a small bumble bee, except for those very large eyes (bees are smaller with space between them on the top of their head) and the very short antennae (bees are longer and project diagonally outward from the head, rather than forward like these do).

Another species of hoverfly, perhaps an Eristalis species, hovered around the flowers and sat on the leaves. It looks just like a small bumble bee, except for those very large eyes (bees are smaller with space between them on the top of their head) and the very short antennae (bees are longer and project diagonally outward from the head, rather than forward like these do).  And of course, this one is obviously not collecting pollen on its rear legs.

It’s amazing what you see when you look closely on and inside of these beautiful flowers.

peony-