Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bee Fly

Bee Flies are very unusual looking insects....all legs and beak. Their bodies are covered in dense hair that gives them a fuzzy appearance. They are in the order Diptera and family Bombyliidae. The name Bee Fly is a very apt name for these hovering bee-like insects. They move very rapidly and rarely stay in one place very long. The ones here were photographed on a Bradford Pear that was blooming this past April. All manner of insects were attracted to the tree as nothing else was in bloom yet. Not only were the bee flies eating their fill of nectar, but so were hover flies, honey bees, paper wasps and ladybugs.

There are hundreds of bee fly species Worldwide and many of them live in the United States. I noticed at least two different species nectaring that the pear blooms. They proved quite difficult to photograph. I brought out the 8 foot step ladder and placed it near the tree. I climbed the ladder and sat on the very top rung, right amongst the blooms and buzzing insects. Insects darted and flew past my head on their way to tastier booms. Each time the bee fly would come into camera range, it would dart off before I could line up the shot. After about 2 hours I managed a half dozen decent shots.

These flies can be found in gardens, meadows, parks, prairies, in scrubby areas with native wildflowers, and even near cropland edges. Two years ago I spotted a pair of these flies hovering around in field corn stubble at the edge of the field. I chased them all over the place and never did manage to get a picture. I will be back out next spring trying once again to capture some images of these flies.

After mating, the female will seek the nest of bees and wasps or even the egg pods of grasshoppers to lay her eggs near. When the eggs hatch the larvae must seek the bees, wasp or egg pods on which to attach themselves and feed. Some species feed on blister beetles and even butterflies. This family of flies is considered neither beneficial nor injurious as they feed equally on harmful and helpful insects.

Look closely at what hovers about your flowers and maybe you will find yourself lucky enough to spot these unique and rapid fliers among the blossoms.


  1. Wow. What a lovely Christmas gift! I am SO in love with those amazing, leggy, restless creatures. Great shots, wow! Yes, they are very challenging to capture, but you did a great job, with such pretty blossoms. THANKS!!

  2. Thank you Bio, I love these little buggers too, they are so cute and interesting....and challenging to photograph.