Monday 22 April 2013

A bee fly in the garden

I have always wanted to see a Bee Fly (Bombylius major). Yesterday I had a glimpse of one in the garden, but being unable to get a photo I later thought that I had mistaken a bee for one of them. Today, early in the morning, probably the same one came to bask on the wall, flying amongst two Anthophora plumipes males, and I had my camera with me. The bright white background wasn't ideal, but I was happy enough to get a few shots. Bee flies are bee mimics, with furry brown bodies of about 12 mm long and their proboscis is almost as long as their bodies and they carry it sticking out forward while they fly or at rest. They are very good flyers and feed while hovering. Males and females feed on nectar, but females also need to feed on pollen to produce eggs. Their long proboscis, which is also adapted for sucking and it is quite movable, allows them to exploit flowers with deep corolla tubes, such as primroses, Aquileguia, lungwort, grape hyacinths and wallflowers, and they are important pollinators of them. I wonder if the abundance of these flowers in my garden, which I grow to attract A. plumipes, has been a factor in attracting the Bee Fly to the garden.
 Bee Fly larva are ectoparasites of ground-nesting bees, (the genus Andrena, Halictus, Lasioglossum and Colletes have been reported). Bee Fly females lay their eggs dropping them in or nearby the tunnels of bees, even on flowers if the female can't find suitable nests. When the larvae hatch they either find the nest and go into an open cell, or latch themselves to a passing bee when they hatch on flowers.
The Bee Fly about to land


Phil said...

Fantastic insects aren't they? Haven't seen one around here yet but keeping my eye on the primulas, which they seem to like. You can see how long their fur is in that shot of the one settled on the wall.

Africa Gomez said...

I can't wait to watch more, this one didn't seem to be particularly hungry. I hadn't noticed the fur length, quite a mane!

biobabbler said...

SWOON! I ADORE bee flies. SO adorable, I LOVE the chubbiness of their fuzzy bodies, the gangly legs swinging to and fro, and that long proboscis. *sigh*

FABULOUS photograph. Congrats! When they're on the move, they are TOUGH to photograph. You got a beaut!

Africa Gomez said...

Thank you biobabbler! I used to see them all the time when I lived in Spain. I'd love to have them as regulars in the garden.

Linda said...

They are amazing insects. Great photo!