Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bee Fly

Bee Flies (Bombylius major) were in abundance last weekend when it was bright and sunny out. Usually I might see one but on that day I saw several. I was looking for bees and I think so were the flies. I always thought their only relationship to bees was that they had the same fuzzy butts that some bees have but their story is a little more complicated than that.



They prey on bees! Or at least their larvae prey on bee larva. I guess that is like saying, “my kids, eat your kids.” Gruesome! Anyway, they lay their eggs near the entrance to the bee’s nest, mostly solitary bees that nest in the ground. Some species sort of flick their eggs into the holes. There are over 5,000 bee flies worldwide so I am generalizing here. The parasitoid larvae enter the hole and begin feeding on the food storage for the host bee larvae and eventually eats the host bee larvae as well. Now get this, later when the bee fly larvae is more mature it turns into a grub-like larvae before it become a bee fly. This is called hyper-metamorphosis. Frankly I’m glad this all goes on underground.


Above ground in the sunshine the bee flies are a lot of fun to watch. The proboscis is long and points forward and they feed on many of the same flowers that bees do. However they hover over the flower like a Clearwing moth or Hummingbird, I guess that is why they need the long proboscis. This seems to be a good strategy to keep clear of predators like crab spiders lurking between the flower petals.



Isn't it cute!

10 comments:

Woodswalker said...

Amazing photos! How did you get that bee fly to hold still for all those clear shots?

Denise said...

I am so glad I tuned into this post. Fascinating and your close-ups are fantastic. Thanks for the interesting information on this little critter. I never knew there was such a thing.

joanny said...

How did you get the little fellow to pose so sweetly for you? did you promise him a Rose Garden

Great photos of nature, indeed

Joanny

squirrel said...

Ahhh the posing question. Well, I caught the bee fly with a net and put it in a clear jar to show a friend. Then I put it into my pocket for safe keeping until I could properly identify it using my field guide that I left in the car. About an hour later, after lunch I remembered it was still in my pocket but now it was calm and cooled down after being in the dark for a while. When I open the jar to let it out it didn't come out so I put my finger in and it hopped on and stayed there while I took the photos with the other hand. Then I placed it on a flower and after it heated up it flew away. It wasn't intentional but I think it worked out in the end.

Gaelyn said...

I think we had a bee fly in the house tonight. Very fast exiter. That probiscus is so hummer like.
I too am glad the egg and larve thing go on underground. Excellent photos and post.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Great post with excellent pictures and info. Gaelyn sent me the link to your blog as she knows how much I like bugs too. :)

MyMaracas said...

Great post - and how serendipitous that we would be writing about the exact same thing this week! Loved learning more about the little beastie here.

I've only just discovered bee flies, and find them fascinating. Wish I had known about the trick of cooling them down for a photo session. Awesome shots!

Americana Lady said...

I have never heard of a bee fly. Thank you for the education and fabulous close-ups! Joan @Americana By Candlelight

Ellen Rathbone said...

It almost doesn't look real. Great post - great photos. 'Tis the season for insect studies, eh?

Anonymous said...

have just found a bee-fly in my garden (gosport in hampshire), first one I've seen, thanks for your interesting revelations about it