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It’s a bee! It’s a fly! It’s a bee fly!


Sorry about the crap picture, but I’ve been trying to get a shot of this screwy little bugger for two weeks. Uncle B and I have both seen him bumbling around the garden. I got one quick snap of him today and then there he was, gone.

He’s a funny little customer with a long, thin proboscis. Weird; like a tiny, hairy hummingbird (but no hummingbirds in England, alas). He hovers, he drinks nectar and he’s shy as a bastard if you try to get near him.

Turns out (thank you Google), he’s not a bee at all. He’s a fly that looks like a bee (probably to keep predators off). A bee fly, or bombyliid (thank you Wikipedia). Kind of an unpleasant piece of work, this — it’s a parasitoid, which means a parasite that always kills its host.

Bee flies lay their eggs in the nests or burrows of other insects, and the larvae eat the tenants. Yum!

I gather these things are kind of rare, so I should utup-shay about the ug-bay or we’ll probably have the conservation people on us.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 20, 2009, 7:52 pm

Those are Uncle B’s lovely wallflowers, which he growed from seed. But they don’t look much in black and white, so — sorry Uncle B!

This guy got some better pictures (funny how many of the hits I got described bee flies as looking like hummingbirds). A Google images search turns up lots of pretty pitchers.

Comment from dfbaskwill
Time: April 20, 2009, 8:37 pm

Vile creatures. As an undergrad, I had a job in a lab documenting the behavior of parasitic wasps on their caterpillar hosts. Had to watch the little buggers and document everything they did for hours at a time through a microscope (they were the size of fruit flies). At least it beat my roommate’s work with cockroaches. What a team we were. Bee flies would have been a step up.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: April 20, 2009, 8:45 pm

I sometimes think I could just about dispense with any professional services at all in my life.

I’d just post a ‘Doctor, I have this funny rash…’ on here and one of my fellow minions would pipe-up with: ‘Ah, that’s Blenkinsop’s syndrome, old chap! Nothing to worry about! We studied that at college back in ’54… My how we laughed when old Prof Blenkinsop confessed he’d first thought his knob was about to drop off!’

Weasel magaic. Is there anything it can’t touch?

Except ground elder. It’s crap at dealing with ground elder.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 20, 2009, 8:49 pm

I’ve mentioned before: I checked this book out of the library some years ago, and damn near lost the will to live.

Parasites. Brrrrrrr.

Comment from apotheosis
Time: April 20, 2009, 9:58 pm

stoattitude sighted

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 20, 2009, 10:15 pm

OH! Ohhhhhhhh…!

Comment from apotheosis
Time: April 20, 2009, 10:51 pm

Is this photo deceptive, or do stoatses have disproportionately large feets?

Comment from JuliaM
Time: April 21, 2009, 3:20 am

“I’ve mentioned before: I checked this book out of the library some years ago..”

Oh, you don’t need books. The innernets has all the parasitey goodness you could want:


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 21, 2009, 6:07 am

I’ve seen photos where a stoat’s feets look totally mutant-large, apotheosis. And others where they don’t. They have longish “fingers” and I think when they spread them out is when they look disproportionately huge.

Comment from Jill
Time: April 21, 2009, 2:23 pm

We have those bee flies here all the time in the spring and summer; they’re quite pretty, actually. Ours are shades of magenta and a lime-ish green/yellow combined. They’re about an inch long, not including their proboscis.

My mom usually spots them first; “Jill, that funny bug was back again and in my phlox.”

“Oh yeah? What do you want me to do about it?”

“Nothing – just letting you know.”

” ‘kay.”

Comment from Dawn
Time: April 21, 2009, 3:31 pm

The extra special article JuliaM posted was thoroughly educational. Yep.


Comment from wendyworn
Time: April 21, 2009, 6:09 pm

Dawn, you are evil. I only got to #4 on JuliaM’s article and I have to stop.


Comment from Nicholas the Slide
Time: April 21, 2009, 6:56 pm


Comment from Glenster
Time: April 21, 2009, 9:29 pm

I seem to remember that the #1 predator of humming birds is the praying mantis – it’s pretty horrendous what they do to the hummingbirds. And here I thought they just ate aphids or something…

Comment from naleta
Time: April 22, 2009, 10:53 am

I’ve always felt that it should be spelled “preying mantis”. After all, the females bite the heads off their mates during sex to make them ejaculate…

Comment from Nicholas the Slide
Time: April 22, 2009, 3:30 pm

The name comes from the position of their claws while at rest resembling a person with their hands folded in prayer… but I agree that either spelling is appropriate.

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