Suborder Brachycera (Flies - Order: Diptera)

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A photograph of the Bee fly _Bombylis major_.

The Bee-fly Bombylis major is commonly seen in spring. Although similar in appearance to a bumble bee it's a more agile flier and can often be seen feeding from flowers using its long proboscis (rather like a humming bird).

The brachycera are generally 'well-built' flies and include the family Stratiomyidae, or soldier flies - somewhat flattened insects, often with bright metallic colours, of which there are 50 British species. Soldier flies like to take it easy, often sunning themselves on the ground on fine days.

The only harmful flies in the Brachycera are in the group known as the Rhagionidae, which includes horse flies. These are stoutly built flies - indeed they are often called 'stouts' in some areas - and have bright, bulging eyes. Female horse flies can give painful bites to horses and man.

Most flies make some kind of noise as they fly towards you, having smelled blood. But one of the stout flies, the Cleg Fly Haematopota pluvialis is completely silent in operation - it is a 'stealth fly', and the first you know about it is when it sinks its mouthparts into your flesh!

One of the writer's favourite groups of flies is the Bombyliidae, or bee-flies. These look just like real bumble bees. One of them, Bombylis major, is commonly seen in spring feeding from flowers. But its flight is much more agile than that of a bumble bee.

The Asilidae include the robber flies. These are sturdy insects with powerful legs. They feed on other insects, which they catch in mid air. They pierce their prey with their horny proboscis and suck its juices.

Other suborders of flies:

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