Have you seen a Bee-fly?

Published: 04 April 2009

April is a fantastic time of year to see bee-flies in Britain. These fascinating insects are 1cm - 2cm in length and have furry, stout bodies.

A photograph of an adult Bee-fly _Bombylius major_

A photograph of an adult Bee-fly Bombylius major.
Photograph by Michael Apel licensed under Creative Commons.

Most bee-flies have a long, thin proboscis extending in front of the body. Bee-flies are true flies (Order: Diptera) and belong in the suborder Brachycera but their furry appearance makes them look a little like bumblebees and this is how they get their name. Bee-flies are harmless.

Adult bee-flies feed on nectar and use their long proboscis to sip nectar from flowering plants whilst hovering in front of the flower - rather like a humming bird. Bee-flies are very agile and often hover near flowers before darting quickly away and then returning to hover again.

Most species of bee-fly are parasites on the nests of solitary bees (for example, Andrena sp.). The adult bee-fly hovers above the entrance hole to the nest and drops eggs into the nest. The bee-fly larvae eat the pollen food stores and the grubs of the solitary bee.

Be sure to keep an eye out for bee-flies at this time of year.

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