What Do Bee Flies Eat? Do They Pollinate or Make Honey?

Bee flies, belonging to the family Bombyliidae, are intriguing insects that often spark curiosity due to their bee-like appearance and unique behaviors. 

This article delves into the dietary habits of bee flies, exploring whether they play a role in pollination and if they have any involvement in honey production. 

By understanding the characteristics and ecological roles of bee flies, we can gain insights into their significance in the environment and their interactions with plants and other insects.

What Do Bee Flies Eat

Characteristics of Bee Flies

Physical Appearance

Bee flies, belonging to the family Bombyliidae, are known for their striking resemblance to bees, which serves as a form of mimicry to deter predators. 

They exhibit a furry appearance with a variety of patterns and colors, typically resembling those of bees or wasps. 

Their wings are often clear or darkly tinted and may display intricate patterns, contributing to their distinctive look. 

Additionally, bee flies possess a long proboscis, which they use for feeding on nectar from flowers.

Habitat and Distribution

Bee flies are a diverse group with a wide distribution, inhabiting various environments across the globe. 

They can be found in a range of habitats, from deserts and grasslands to forests and urban gardens. 

The availability of flowering plants and suitable hosts for their larvae significantly influences their distribution. 

Bee flies are particularly abundant in warmer climates and are commonly observed during spring and summer when flowers are plentiful, and temperatures are favorable.

Lifespan and Behavior

The lifespan of bee flies varies among species, but generally, they have a relatively short adult life, often lasting several weeks. 

During this time, they are active flyers, frequently visiting flowers to feed on nectar. 

Bee flies exhibit a hovering flight pattern, similar to that of hummingbirds, allowing them to feed on the wing. 

Their behavior is characterized by agility and rapid movements, making them fascinating subjects for observation. 

The larval stage of bee flies is parasitic, with larvae feeding on the eggs or larvae of other insects, showcasing a different aspect of their behavior and ecological role.

What Do Bee Flies Eat?

Adult Bee Flies

Nectar Feeding: Adult bee flies primarily feed on nectar from a variety of flowering plants. 

Using their long proboscis, they can access nectar from flowers while hovering, similar to hummingbirds. 

This feeding behavior allows them to consume essential nutrients and energy needed for flight and reproduction.

Flower Preferences: Bee flies are not particularly selective and visit a wide range of flowers. 

However, they tend to favor flowers with easily accessible nectar sources. 

The availability of diverse flowering plants within their habitat significantly influences their diet and abundance.

Role in Pollination: While bee flies do not produce honey, their feeding habits make them important pollinators. 

As they move from flower to flower in search of nectar, pollen grains adhere to their bodies and are transferred to other flowers, facilitating cross-pollination and supporting plant biodiversity.

Larval Bee Flies

Parasitic Lifestyle: The larvae of bee flies lead a parasitic lifestyle, quite contrasting to the adults. 

They are parasitoids, meaning they feed on the eggs or larvae of other insects, eventually causing the death of their hosts.

Host Selection: Different bee fly species target specific host insects, often including beetles, wasps, or other flies. 

The female bee fly lays her eggs near the entrance of the host’s nest, and upon hatching, the larva makes its way inside to feed on the host’s offspring.

Impact on Host Populations: The parasitic nature of bee fly larvae can have a regulating effect on the populations of their host insects. 

By preying on the offspring of other insects, bee flies contribute to the ecological balance within their habitats.

Bee Flies and Pollination

Pollination Mechanism

Nectar Feeding and Pollen Transfer: Bee flies, with their hovering flight and long proboscis, are well-adapted to feed on nectar from a variety of flowers. 

As they feed, pollen grains from the flower’s anthers stick to their bodies. 

When they visit the next flower, some of these pollen grains are transferred to the stigma, facilitating the process of cross-pollination.

Floral Diversity: Bee flies are generalist pollinators, meaning they do not rely on a single type of flower. 

This behavior is beneficial for a wide range of flowering plants, as bee flies contribute to the pollination of diverse plant species within their habitat.

Importance in Ecosystems

Supporting Biodiversity: By pollinating a variety of plants, bee flies play a crucial role in maintaining and supporting plant biodiversity. 

The plants they pollinate produce seeds and fruits, which are essential food sources for various animals, thereby supporting overall ecosystem health.

Ecological Balance: The pollination services provided by bee flies are integral to the ecological balance of their habitats. 

They help in the reproduction of flowering plants, which in turn provide shelter, food, and contribute to the overall structure of the ecosystem.

Comparison with Bees

Differences in Pollination: While both bee flies and bees are pollinators, there are differences in their pollination efficiency and specialization. 

Bees are often more specialized and efficient pollinators due to their body structure and behavior, while bee flies are more generalized pollinators.

Honey Production: Unlike bees, bee flies do not have the ability to produce honey. 

Bees collect nectar to make honey and have specialized structures for storing it, whereas bee flies only consume nectar for their immediate energy needs.

Bee Flies and Honey Production

Lack of Honey Production

Nectar Consumption: Unlike honeybees, bee flies do not have the ability to produce honey. 

They consume nectar from flowers primarily for their own energy needs and do not have the structures or social system to store and convert nectar into honey.

Solitary Nature: Bee flies are solitary insects, meaning they do not live in colonies like honeybees. 

The absence of a colony structure contributes to their lack of honey production, as they do not need to store food for a hive.

B. Differences from Honeybees

Foraging Behavior: While both bee flies and honeybees forage on flowers for nectar, their purposes are different. 

Honeybees collect nectar to bring back to the hive for honey production, while bee flies consume it directly for energy.

Anatomy and Physiology: Honeybees possess specialized structures such as honey stomachs and wax glands that enable them to produce and store honey. 

Bee flies lack these adaptations, focusing instead on immediate energy consumption.

bee fly
Bee Fly

C. Impact on Ecosystem

Role in Pollination: Despite not producing honey, bee flies play a significant role in ecosystems through their pollination activities. 

They aid in the reproduction of various flowering plants, thereby supporting biodiversity and ecological balance.

Food Chain Contribution: While they do not contribute honey as a food source in the ecosystem, bee flies themselves serve as prey for various predators, thus playing a role in the food chain.

Conclusion

In conclusion, bee flies exhibit fascinating characteristics and behaviors that distinguish them from bees, despite their similar appearance. 

Their diet primarily consists of nectar and pollen, contributing to their role as pollinators in various ecosystems. 

However, unlike bees, bee flies do not engage in honey production, as this process is unique to certain bee species. 

Understanding the ecological role of bee flies enhances our appreciation for the diversity and complexity of insect life and their contributions to the natural world.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about bee flies. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bee Flies from Florida

Need Help ID These Bugs?
Location: Indialantic, Florida
April 4, 2012 8:53 am
Can Somebody please help me identify these bugs? I saw the white bug on pine needle and the small one that looks like a fly on this yellow flower.
Signature: ADubin

Bee Flies

Dear ADubin,
We are posting your photo of the Flies on the yellow flower, but we have not had any luck with an identification on BugGuide.  We are not even sure of the family and Flies are not one of our strengths when it comes to identification. 

We have requested assistance from Eric Eaton and perhaps he or one of our readers will be able to assist.  Can you please provide any additional information?  When was the photo taken?  What species of flower are the Flies on?  Were there other Flies on other blossoms on the plant?

Update:  Eric Eaton provides an answer.
Daniel:
Sure, these are bee flies (I know!  A very diverse family, Bombyliidae) in the genus Poecilognathus.  Great image!
Eric

Daniel,
All can tell you that I took this photo on April 1, 2012 at 2:30PM EST.  It was in open field that is near a power substation a couple blocks from our house.  In looking at the info on Eric’s Email, it looks like a Genus Poecilognathus – Bee Fly.
Again thanks for your help.
Arnold

Letter 2 – Bee Fly

bug identification
Can you please tell me what the attached bug is.
Thanks,
Ruth

Hi Ruth,
This is a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae, probably Bombylius major.

Letter 3 – Bee Fly

2 great iPhotos
Dear Bugman:
I’m found your website trying to identify this bug we found today. We live in Maine and it is Spring, but not very warm. So I was amazed to see any bug today. It is almost 40 degrees but feels colder than that. I hope you can see the bug from the pictures I took.

It has a very fuzzy body as though a moth or an extra fuzzy fly. It’s not narrow at all, but rounded in body. It has fly-like wings that seem to stick out all of the time like an airplane. We haven’t seen it flap it’s wings at all. It has this very obvious “proboscis” and very short antennae (maybe 1/16th of an inch).

It has six legs. We were thinking that it might be some kind of fly or an immature moth, if there is such a thing. Can you help? Thanks so much for your time.
Dube Family

Hi Dube Family,
This is a Bee Fly, Bombylius major. According to BugGuide, their flight time is April.

Letter 4 – South African Bee Fly

What the bug?
Hi there,
We have a few bugs we would like to know about. We found this fly in Gouritsmond on a farm, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.
Daan

We suspect this pretty white fly is a Bee Fly in the Family Bombyliidae, but your photo does not show the proboscis which would aid identification.

Letter 5 – Bee Fly

Hummingbee?
Took these photos this morning near Omaha, NE. The insect hovers constantly, moving from flower to flower. It is about the size of a honeybee. Can you tell me what it is? Thanks!
Doug Wulf

Hi Doug,
Bee Flies in the genus Bombylius are flies that act like bees.

Letter 6 – Bee Fly

Can you identify this insect?
Hello,
I found this in my lawn. It’s the size of a common housefly, but very distinctive with the clear/colored wings. It appears to have a nector probe. Any idea what it is? Thanks!
John

Hi John,
This is a Major Bee Fly, Bombylius major. It is a nectar feeding fly that is found in both North America and Europe.

Letter 7 – Bee Fly

Bee Fly – SE Ariz. Sighting
Hi Bug Guy,
It’s been a while since I’ve sent you anything to ID, but I sure do visit your sight often to see if I can find ID’s for Bugs I catch, and your site is a huge resource and help!

I was so excited when I searched whatsthatbug for this insect, to find a photo and description of a (somewhat rare) Bee Fly, that looks just like the one I “caught” (with my camera) at a pond on the ground where I work in Dragoon, Ariz, Cochise County, SE AZ. Thought you would like to know of another sighting. Thanks so much for being there!
Carol L. Breton
Benson, Arizona

Hi Carol,
Though you did not mention the identity of the rare Bee Fly in your letter, we are guessing that you refer to our posting of Ogcodocera leucoprocta from Georgia and the note that another member of the genus occurs in Arizona.

Though the coloration seems similar, we had our doubts, and turned our search to BugGuide’s extensive Bee Fly postings for the family Bombyliidae, searching patiently through subfamilies, tribes and genera to no avail. Then we decided to check our volume of Charles Hogue’s Insects of the Los Angeles Basin and found a photo of Hemipenthes sinuosa jaennickiana, a Black Winged Bee Fly that looked similar to your photo.

Then we returned to BugGuide to search that genus, and found within the genus an unnamed species found in Arizona that looks like a match to your photo

Letter 8 – Scaly Bee Fly

Insect on summer flower
Tue, Oct 21, 2008 at 1:01 PM
This flying insect was photographed taking nectar from a late summer flower. The most interesting thing is the way it has folded it’s body almost at a ninety degee angle. Photograph was taken about the middle of August. I have no idea of what this is.
Norm Carl
northeastern Illinois

Scaly Bee Fly
Scaly Bee Fly

Hi Again Norm,
This is a Bee Fly in the genus Lepidophora, possibly the Scaly Bee Fly, Lepidophora lepidocera.  The hump back shape is distinctive for the genus.  BugGuide represents two species in the genus and both are found in Illinois. 

The other species is Lepidophora lutea and BugGuide indicates:  “Hunch-backed shape is shared with L. lutea . In L. lepidocera , the pale scales are white or pale yellow, and usually no pale scales are evident on the fourth abdominal segment. Also note fringe at end of abdomen.”

Letter 9 – Scaly Bee Fly

what’s this pollinator?
July 23, 2009
I was walking in downtown Nashville Indiana a couple of weeks ago (7/10/09) and saw this critter. I’d never seen one before and, being interested in all sorts of pollinating insects, decided to take a snapshot. Later I saw a few more and so I asked my aunt, a gardener, if she knew. She didn’t, in fact, she’d never noticed one either. So what is it?
McKenzie
Brown County, IN

Scaly Bee Fly
Scaly Bee Fly

Hi McKenzie,
High quality images like your photograph of a Scaly Bee Fly, Lepidophora lepidocera, are a tremendous contribution to our website.  BugGuide indicates: 

“Adults are seen on flowers, presumably taking nectar. Insects of Cedar Creek reports they like to visit a Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum). Another reference from Minnesota lists Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) as a nectar source. Seen on goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Bushy Aster (Symphyotrichum dumosum) in the Piedmont of North Carolina.”

Letter 10 – Progressive Bee Fly

Bee, Butterfly or Fly?
Location: Mt. Pleasant, Ontario, CAN (Southern Ontario)
August 8, 2011 4:21 pm
Could you please do your best to identify this insect? I found it on this milkweed plant and have never seen it before. Thanks.
Signature: Curious

Progressive Bee Fly

Dear Curious,
At first glance, we thought this was a Tiger Bee Fly, but closer examination revealed our initial error.  This is actually a Progressive Bee Fly, 
Exoprosopa decora, which we identified on BugGuide using the pattern of the wings distinguished it.  Bee Flies are pollinating insects that are described on BugGuide as: 

“Hairy, often brightly colored flies. Legs usually slender, Wings often have dark markings, held outstretched at rest. Face not hollowed out. Eyes almost touching above, especially in males. Proboscis either short with broad tip, or long and used to take nectar.

Hover and dart, rather like syrphid flies. Females sometimes seen hovering over sandy areas, dipping abdomen to oviposit.”  We had decided to post your photo when we initially thought it was a Tiger Bee Fly, Xenox tigrinus, because we have received numerous images of the species this summer, but our most recent posting is from June 2010

Seems we were either too busy to post the images we received this summer, or the quality was not that good.  We even received some images of mating pairs.  We feel we should search through old emails to post a recent photo, but that could take hours.  

Letter 11 – Tiger Bee Fly relative

Tiger Bee Fly photos
Location: Los Angeles, California
August 23, 2011 4:12 am
I was able to identify this Tiger Bee Fly, thanks to this site! I thought you might like these photos I took yesterday. I had never seen one of these before, so I was very curious. This guy landed nearby on a white shirt I had hung up to dry. I think he stands out nicely against this background.
Signature: Adam Shipman

Tiger Bee Fly relative

Hi Adam,
We are happy to hear you were able to use our website to identify your Tiger Bee Fly,
Xenox tigrinus, but we would advise you, and anyone else, to be sure to check our site against other resources since we are not infallible.  BugGuide is always an excellent place to identify North American species from Canada and the United States. 

BugGuidelists the identifying features as “A large Bee Fly with a distinctive wing pattern. Note the large, wrap-around eyes.”  We have observed that there is some degree of variability in the pattern on the wings between individuals.  Since you indicated that the fly landed on a white shirt, we adjusted the levels in the corresponding RGB histograms to whiten the fabric.

Tiger Bee Fly relative

Ed. Note:  We just received a comment correcting our identification and we agree that this is Xenox habrosus.

Letter 12 – Bee Fly from Canada

Danger???
Location: 25km N/W Toronto, Ont., Canada
September 22, 2011 2:12 pm
I think maybe Mosquitoes are a little more advanced than we think and have developed a prototype of the ultimate Mosquito warrior in preparation for a D-Day attack on us helpless humans!!!
The strips on the tarp are 1/8th inch so this thing is just less than 1 inch long and stands about as tall. That’s likely about 100 times the size of your everyday non warrior killing machine mosquito.
Seen on a hiking trail Aug 13/2011, about 25km north/west of Toronto, Ontario. There have been no known attacks yet. Get ready….!!!
Signature: Dan

Scaly Bee Fly

Hi Dan,
While it might look like a mosquito on steroids, looks can often be deceptive in the insect world, and this Scaly Bee Fly,
Lepidophora lepidocera, is perfectly harmless.  According to BugGuide

“Adults are seen on flowers, presumably taking nectar. Insects of Cedar Creek reports they like to visit a Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum). Another reference from Minnesota lists Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) as a nectar source.

Seen on goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and Bushy Aster (Symphyotrichum dumosum) in the Piedmont of North Carolina”  BugGuide also notes:  “Larvae of Lepidophora are parasites of solitary wasps (Vespidae and Sphecidae).”

Update:  August 13, 2016
After posting a similar Bee Fly today, we now believe this is
Lepidophora lutea which has a more northerly range according to BugGuide.

Letter 13 – What’s Buzzing the Baccharis? Bee Fly

Bee Fly on the Baccharis in Elyria Canyon Park
Location:  Elyria Canyon Park, Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
October 14, 2012
Right now we haven’t the energy to identify this relatively large Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae to the species level, but we invite our readers to scour BugGuide and send us anything they discover.  This is the final photo we took this morning.

Bee Fly

Letter 14 – Bee Fly

Subject: Is this a fly?
Location: Western Washington state
July 8, 2013 4:13 pm
If so, I can’t seem to find it under North American flies. It certainly wasn’t skiddish like regular flies, as I held the phone not more than a foot from it. Nor did my movement scare it.
Thanks in advance.
-Chris
Signature: Chris

Possibly Bee Fly
Bee Fly

Hi Chris,
This is a true Fly, and it reminds us of a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae, but we are unable to find a matching image on BugGuide.  We are seeking assistance from Eric Eaton on this ID.

Eric Eaton Concurs
Daniel:
It is indeed a bee fly, probably a species of Villa, though I’m not a certified expert on that family.
Eric

Without finding a common name for it, I did find out via google that it
is  indigenous to the PNW, though very difficult to find on the net with
maybe two photos. Though I’m not into entomology, I feel very fortunate
to have seen and photograph this elusive creature. Thanks for your help.

Letter 15 – Bee Fly, NOT Tachinid Fly

Subject: I think this is a big furry fly
Location: Colima, Mexico
September 24, 2013 8:13 pm
I found this fly (i think it is a fly) sitting on the patio table, late September 2013, not long after Tropical Storm Manual and Hurricane Ingrid slammed into southern Mexico at the same time, one from the Pacific and one from the Atlantic.

It is not moving much. It has a thick, velvety coat with a white stripe horizontally across the top side of the lower thorax. I would say the body part (without wings) is about 2cm. I haven’t seen this bug before and would be interested to have an ID. The bit of white at the end of the thorax does not belong to the bug but is a bit of debris on the table. Thanks bugman
Signature: Beverly

Probably Tachinid Fly
Bee Fly

Hi Beverly,
We believe, but we are not certain, that this is some species of Tachinid Fly.  Members of the Tachinid Fly family are parasitic in the larval stage, and adults often take nectar from flowers.  Tachinids prey on a wide variety of insects and other arthropods, and caterpillars are probably the most common host insect.  See BugGuide for more information on Tachinid Flies.

Probably Tachinid Fly
BeeFly

Update and Correction:  January 11, 2014
We got a pretty confident correction from Stephen who agrees with the comment from James, so even though we cannot locate a link with a matching photo, we have correct the posting to read Bee Fly.

Letter 16 – Bee Fly is Anthrax argyropygus

Subject: Some sort of tachnid fly?
Location: Andover, NJ (Sussex Cty)
July 16, 2014 10:45 am
Hi,
Hoping you can help me with an id on this small fly. It was about 1/4 inch in length, and was in my flower garden just sitting on a leaf. The eyes make me think it is some sort of fly, maybe in the tachnid family?
Thanks!
Deborah
Signature: Deborah Bifulco

Fly
Bee Fly

Hi Deborah,
You are correct that this is a Fly, but we are not prepared at this time to provide a family identification.  We are posting your image as an Unknown Fly and we hope to be able to provide you with a more specific identification in the future.

Update:  July 19, 2014
Thanks to a comment from Cesar Crash of the Brazilian site Insetologia, we now know that this Bee Fly is
Anthrax argyropygus.  According to BugGuide, it is:  “widespread in United States into Mexico, also Cuba.”

Letter 17 – Bee Fly

Subject: Is this a bee or a fly?
Location: San Diego, Ca
September 23, 2014 3:52 pm
This was taken just now in San Diego County at a horse ranch. I couldn’t see a stinger but it appeared to have one on its face! It was very fuzzy and quite frankly, very cute.
Signature: Suburban Adventuress

Bee Fly
Bee Fly

Dear Suburban Adventuress,
This Fly is commonly called a Bee Fly and it is in the family Bombyliidae.

Letter 18 – Bee Fly

Subject: Is this a type of bee?
Location: wimberly, tx
May 31, 2015 11:33 am
we are trying to figure out if this is a type of bee.
Signature: Tater bug

Bee Fly
Bee Fly

Dear Tater bug,
We believe we have properly identified your Bee Fly as Poecilanthrax lucifer, based on images posted to BugGuide where we learned:  “The larvae feed on the moth larva of members of the family Noctuidae.”

Letter 19 – Bee Fly

Subject: What’s This Bug? Mosquito-related?
Location: San Mateo, CA
March 2, 2016 8:40 pm
Found this critter flying around my house tonight in San Mateo. Fuzzy type of mosquito? Thought by sound it was a bumble bee until I caught it. Head seems mosquito-ish.
Signature: Renee, in San Mateo, CA

Bee Fly
Bee Fly

Dear Renee,
Though your images are quite blurry, they are nonetheless easily recognizable as being of a Bee Fly.  Flies and Mosquitoes are classified together in the insect order Diptera.

Thank you, Daniel.
The “Bee-Fly” was flying around so quickly, it was difficult to get an in-focus photo!  It’s abdomen is so flat that from the side it actually looks like a mosquito (& sounds like one) but from the top it’s more reminiscent of a barely-fuzzy bee.
Thank you for clarifying.
-Renee

Letter 20 – Bee Fly

Subject: Is this a horsefly?
Location: Abbotsford, British Columbia. Canada
June 15, 2016 4:04 pm
Spotted this bug while sitting on my deck. I’ve never seen such transparent wings with spots like these.I’m in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Any idea what it is?
Signature: S.Scott

Bee Fly
Bee Fly

Dear S.Scott,
This is a Bee Fly, not a Horse Fly, and we believe it is either
Anthrax irroratus or another member of the genus based on this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide, it is a “Parasitoid of hymenoptera” meaning that it kills its host, making it an effective, natural, biological agent for the control of True Bugs.

Letter 21 – Bee Fly

Subject: What the heck is this?
Location: Chichester, Quebec
August 26, 2016 8:03 am
Hello bugman,
My mother recently took a picture of a strange bug she saw on her farm. I tried looking up what bug it is on google with no success and we are both really curious as to what it is. Can you help?
Thank you very much and have a nice day!
Signature: Angie

Bee Fly:  Lepidophora lutea
Bee Fly: Lepidophora lutea

Dear Angie,
This unusual fly is a harmless Bee Fly,
Lepidophora lutea.

Letter 22 – Bee Fly

Subject: identification
Location: Tucson, AZ
October 6, 2016 6:04 pm
Dear Bugman,
I am submitting a few photos of insects for identification. They were taken between October 1 and 4 2016 in our community garden in Tucson, AZ.
Image 1 I believe to be a bee fly, perhaps of genus Exoprosopa.
…I would be very happy if you could identify the insets in these photos that I would like to share with my fellow gardeners.
Thanks very much!
Signature: Melody

Bee Fly
Bee Fly

Dear Melody,
We agree that this is a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae, but in our opinion, you have the genus misidentified.  The pattern on the wings looks more like the pattern on the wings of
Dipalta serpentina which is pictured on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide

“The wing venation is quite distinctive: the radial segment R2+3 is strongly contorted into an ‘S’-shape, and is connected (at first sinus of the ‘S’) by a cross-vein to R4 (see wing diagram from the MND here).”  BugGuide also notes:  “Larvae are parasitoids of pupae, and perhaps also larvae, of antlions (Myrmeleontidae).”

Dear Daniel,
Thanks very much for the inset identification. I didn’t know the Bug Guide rules so apologize for sending photos of on-related species.
I am attaching the same photo of the dorsal view of the bee fly along with a three quarter view in which the pattern of dark pigmentation in the wing is more easily seen.

This pigmentation pattern does not quite match that of the Dialta serpentina photo on Bug Guide. But perhaps pigmentation is variable and venation is what is what is used for identification purposes?


Thanks again. I am just a gardener, not a dedicated bug geek, but am always fascinated by the diversity of insects we see in our organic garden.
Thanks again!
Melody

Bee Fly
Bee Fly

Hi again Melody,
For clarification, we are What’s That Bug? and we frequently cite BugGuide, an entirely different website when we attempt to identify the submissions we receive.  There is no need for you to apologize. 

While we attempt to identify as many submissions as we can, we are also interested in posting excellent submissions to our archive, and that is the primary reason we request that submissions be limited to a single individual, species or family, unless there are extenuating circumstances. 

With that stated, with difficult identifications, often multiple views of the same individual are helpful in making identifications, and for that reason, we allow our curious readership to attach up to three images.  Regarding pigmentation pattern, there is often variation within a single species, and veination pattern is a more scientifically accepted method for taxonomic identification. 

That said, our editorial staff does not have any formal entomological background, so our identifications are questionable at best.  We are frequently wrong and we enthusiastically welcome corrections from true experts.  If you look at other images on BugGuide of Dipalta serpentina, you will see that there are individuals with pigmentation patterns that are similar to your individual. 

Finally, modern identification is depending more and more on DNA analysis, which is leading to lumping together of formerly distinct species and subspecies, and splitting apart of formerly single species.  At the end of the day, insects and other creatures are better at identifying potential mates in their own species than we humans are.


P.S.  Your Ant identification request is still on our back burner, and we would humbly request, if you have the time and you want to make our posting a bit easier, for you to resubmit the image, use our standard submission form, and attach multiple views of those Ants so we are able to more carefully consider their physical characteristics.

Letter 23 – Bee Fly

Subject: Furry bug
Location: Bay Area, San Francisco
July 11, 2017 6:16 pm
Dear bugman,
This furry little bug landed on my foot, stayed for a bit and then gently flew away. What do you think it is? Thank you!
Signature: Melissa S.

Bee Fly

Dear Melissa,
This is a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae

Letter 24 – Bee Fly

Subject: Hummingbird moth? Oregon
Location: Grizzly Mountain, Ashland OR
July 12, 2017 6:44 pm
Dear Bugman,
I photographed this insect on Grizzly Mountain near Ashland, Southern Oregon, on July 3rd. Is it a hummingbird moth? If so, what species? I would be very grateful for an ID. I did not get any other angles on the insect, it moved so fast.
Signature: Emma

Bee Fly

Dear Emma,
This is not a Hummingbird Moth.  This is a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae, and your image of it nectaring while hovering is awesome.  Most images of Bee Flies on our site picture them at rest.  Though we are able to provide a family classification, we cannot see either the markings on the body or the wings, so we cannot provide you with a species identification.

Dear Daniel,
Thank you very much – I did not expect such a quick response! If it’s a Bee Fly, that explains why I could not find a picture of it online, since I was looking at hummingbird moths. D’oh.
There were thousands of them up on the mountain, as well as many kinds of actual bees, hover flies, other flies, butterflies and moths.
Thanks again
Emma

Letter 25 – Bee Fly

Subject:  ID help please?
Geographic location of the bug:  Chicopee, MA
Date: 09/13/2017
Time: 09:40 PM EDT
Hi there,
I have looked around the internet, as well as posted to various Facebook pages. Some guesses were made, however nothing concrete, so I’m turning to the bugman…. Oh, & this was taken 9/12/17.
How you want your letter signed:  Thank you, Kristi

Bee Fly

Dear Kristi,
We are certain this is a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae, but we are not certain of the genus or species.  Right now, we believe it is a member of the tribe Villini which is well represented on BugGuide, and when time permits, we will attempt a more specific identification based on your location, and this critter’s wing markings and veination.

 Anthracinae » Villini » Rhynchanthrax – ?
Thank you! You got me far enough that I believe I may have got the rest. If you find I am incorrect, please lemme know.

We don’t think so.  Though it looks similar, based on BugGuide data, that is a western genus.

Letter 26 – Bee Fly

Subject:  Short wasp? Weird bee? Sawfly? Just what is this guy?
Geographic location of the bug:  La Jolla, California
Date: 09/19/2017
Time: 06:10 PM EDT
Hello there. I was wondering if you could identify this insect? I am terribly afraid of bees and wasps, so when I took a glance at it after stepping out of my mother’s car (about 6 meters away), I was in a hurry to get away from it.

Upon closer inspection, my mother insisted it looked more like a moth than a bee (I have to disagree, but the wings do have peculiar patterns that bees, wasps, and the like usually don’t have, so I guess I could see it.)


It certainly did not fly like a butterfly- it hovered much like a bee or wasp would when it would fly, which is why I thought it was one until I saw the pictures she took.


This fellow was attracted to some yellow flowers we have right outside of our house, (the kind of flower is featured in one picture of the bug) if that means anything at all. Yet again, bees and butterflies also tend to hang out there, so I guess that’s nothing really important, although it lets you know this guy’s a pollinator.


Anyways, if you could help me identify this bug I would so much appreciate it. I’ve tried looking everywhere to find his species and have had no luck.
Thank you kindly.
How you want your letter signed:  T.H.

Bee Fly

Dear T.H.,
Mistaking this Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae for a bee is quite understandable.  It is quite a beautiful Bee Fly and we suspect it is the same species that visited the offices of What’s That Bug? this weekend in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles, but alas, we were unable to get an image of it before it flew away. 

We have identified it as Poecilanthrax arethusa thanks to the Natural History of Orange County site.  Unfortunately, other than providing a range, BugGuide does not have any species specific information on this gorgeous, and perfectly harmless, Bee Fly, but the genus page does credit D. Yeates with the revelation “Endoparasitoids of Noctuidae pupae.” 

We followed the provided link to ResearchGate where it states:  “The recorded host range of Bombyliidae spans seven insect Orders and the Araneae; almost half of all records are from bees and wasps (Hymenoptera). No Bombyliidae have evolved structures to inject eggs directly into the host as is the case in many hymenopterous parasitoids.

Bombyliid larvae usually exhibit hypermetamorphosis, and contact their host while it is in the larval stage. Bee fly larvae consume the host when it is in a quiescent stage such as the mature larva, prepupa or pupa.”  The indicated hosts, the pupae of moths in the family Noctuidae, generally pupate underground.  INaturalist has numerous Southern California sightings.

Letter 27 – Bee Fly

Subject:  Fly? Bee?
Geographic location of the bug:  North Hollywood, CA
Date: 07/17/2021
Time: 06:02 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman :  This was on a tomato plant, is it a pest?
How you want your letter signed:  Larry

Bee Fly

Dear Larry,
This is a Fly that mimics a Bee, and it is commonly called a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae.  We do not recognize the species, but there are some similar looking individuals on the Natural History of Orange County website.

Letter 28 – Bee Fly

Subject:  Bee Fly?
Geographic location of the bug:  Casa Grande, AZ
Date: 10/25/2021
Time: 01:48 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this little bug on the screen outside my indoor plants. Between 1 to 1.5 cm. in size. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I’ve looked through all kinds of sites, but little true info is out online. I can’t identify any that look quite like this.
Please help?
How you want your letter signed:  Chris in Casa Grande

Bee Fly

Update:  I just sent photos of a little bee fly id been unable to identify. Looked through this site as well as BugGuide.net. Just after sending my request, I believe I found it – gray bee fly – Anastoechus melanohalteralis. Sorry for the unneeded request. Still love this site!

Dear Chris,
This is indeed a Bee Fly in the family Bombyliidae.  We are uncertain of the exact species.

Authors

  • Daniel Marlos

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

13 thoughts on “What Do Bee Flies Eat? Do They Pollinate or Make Honey?”

  1. It seems that this is actually a closely related species: Xenox Habrosus. I came to this conclusion because I observed the insect in California. Also, notice the slightly different pattern on the wings which is more consistent with Xenox Habrosus.

    Reply
  2. It looks like a Bee Fly to me, but I’m no expert, so have a look at bugguide.net
    Tachinids are supposed to always have spiney/spikey rear ends.

    Reply
  3. It looks like a Bee Fly to me, but I’m no expert, so have a look at bugguide.net
    Tachinids are supposed to always have spiney/spikey rear ends.

    Reply
    • Thanks Cesar. We combed the Bee Fly images on BugGuide and could not find a match. The wings look like those of several Bee Flies, but the body appears to be shaped differently.

      Reply

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