Bee flies

Bee fly, Bombylius, on spring beauty

Another type of fly that is commonly found at flowers is the bee fly, Bombylius, frequently seen in the spring. It is furry like a bumble bee, but smaller. You can distinguish it from bumble bees by its enormous eyes and very thin legs. It is plumper and hairier than the syrphid flies, so it is easy to tell apart. It has a sharp and rather long tongue or proboscis which it dips in the heart of flowers in search of nectar (they, especially the females, take pollen in addition to nectar). It flies mostly in early spring, around the same time that Andrena bees are most common; it does so because it lays its eggs near the nests of these bees. Its larvae parasitize the nests of Andrena (it also parasitizes other bees such as halictids and colletids). Despite this bad habit of exploiting other pollinators, it is a good pollinator itself.

Bee fly probably searching for Andrena bee nests

Habitat. Woods (in early spring when trees are still bare) and meadows. It is seen flying low over bare ground. Throughout all of North America.

Season. Primarily early spring but it can also be found as late as October and even November.

Flowers. Early spring flowers such as spring beauties, later in the season many other flowers including asters. It prefers flowers with a deep throat which it can reach with its long tongue.

See also:
Pollinator of the month. Bee flies

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