Yellow Jacket Hover Fly

help with identification
December 26, 2009
Dr. Mr. Bugman,
Like a lot of very silly people, I called this a bee. Then, I started looking for what kind of “bee” this is and realized that it’s probably not a bee at all. Smooth, bright yellow and black markings…I’m guessing a very poor pollinator….short antennae… and spotted in southeaster Alabama in late October on my cold frame plastic.
Would love to know what this little flyer is…since I did a graphic design of it…and want to call it something more than BeeArt…since it’s not a bee at all. Of this, I’m pretty certain. Thanks to your wonderful web site!
Kimberly, a master gardener, lover of bugs, but still learning about the birds & the bees
Ozark, Alabama (southeastern Alabama)

Yellow Jacket Hover Fly
Yellow Jacket Hover Fly

Dear Kimberly,
This is a Yellow Jacket Hover Fly, Milesia virginiensis.  It is one of the Syrphid Flies in the family Syrphidae, commonly called Flower Flies or Hover Flies.  Many species in the family mimic bees and wasps, hence your original confusion.  The adult Yellow Jacket Hover Fly feeds on nectar and pollen from plants like Queen Anne’s Lace, and it will also be attracted to the blooms of related plants in your garden like parsley, dill and carrots.  BugGuide has a wealth of information on the Yellow Jacket Hover Fly, including this tidbit gleaned from  “Flies aggressively and buzzes like a hornet. In the southern United States, sometimes called the news bee or good news bee for its habit of hovering in front of a person and “giving them the news”. It is also said to be good luck if one can get the insect to perch on a finger, no doubt because this is difficult to do.

Dear Mr. Marlos,
You have made my day….and I so appreciate your prompt response to my question re: identifying this colorful creature.  I adore the BUGS website and am grateful to folks, like you, who give this your time.  Such a worthy endeavor.  Thanks to you I am now a more informed individual and will be addressing this bee/yellow jacket mix up on my blog.  After I do, I’ll share the link with you… you can see the YJHF Art I created.
Thank you,

10 thoughts on “Yellow Jacket Hover Fly”

  1. Nearly every time I split firewood (during the warm part of the year), a news bee appears and seems to search the surfaces of the freshly split wood. Until I read on this website that the Yellow Jacket Hover Fly feeds on pollen and nectar, I assumed this was because it was hunting the larvae of wood borers. What is it doing? Also I’ve noticed that when gnats are plaguing me as they do out here in the Ozarks on summer mornings or evenings, they seem to disappear any time there is a news bee present. Is there some adversarial relationship between the two?

  2. I just sat and watched some Yellow Jacket Hover Flies today, observing that gnats do indeed flee from them – but the Hover Fly flees from the common house fly! Best I could tell, the pecking order has to do with a little territorialism and who’s the quickest flier. Still don’t know why they all like the freshly exposed wood surfaces, though. The tree I was splitting was an old Black Jack and they do tend to reek of a slightly tarry sap although they’re not sticky with it. I’m speculating that’s what the news bee and all of them are interested in.

  3. This same exact yellow jacket has been following me since friday afternoon an it doesnt sting me it just gets very close an hovers around me dont know what it means ….

  4. Thank you. I live in North west Georgia. Every summer one of these comes around. I finally was able to get a photo of it. It does buzz around me but never too close. I have seen one every summer for about the last five years. I wondered if it is some kind of hornet or wasp. Thanks.

  5. I have always known these as News Bees as well. It’s easy to tell they are a fly and not a bee. All you have to do to get one to land on your finger is point at it. I have informed people for years that they were not bees and wouldn’t hurt them. The summer of 2014 and 2015 we had a crazy number of them and for the first time they were annoying me, lol. I also was bitten (not stung) by a couple and have never had that happen before either. It wasn’t as bad as a house fly bite though. They haven’t been bad this year though (2016). Always have liked this bug.


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