The Bee-fly – it must be 17 degrees

Rather like the arrival of the swallow, the appearance of the Bee-fly is one of the heralds of spring for me. I actually saw my first Bee-fly on the 17th March but didn’t manage to photograph it. Yesterday I did get some pictures. Bee-flies only fly when the temperature is above 17 degrees. My garden is a sun trap and I could feel the sun on my neck – always a good sign.

Bombylius major 1
Bee-flies look like bumblebees but are in fact a type of fly. This is our commonest species – the Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major)

Bombylius major 5
They have a long tongue to reach nectar on flowers – they are often seen on primroses but this one is feeding on lesser celandine

Bombylius major 2
The dark front edges to the wings are characteristic of this species. In Britain there are four species of bee-fly – the others being much less common

Bombylius major 3
In this picture you can see the lesser celandine pollen on the proboscis and the feet of the Bee-fly – pollination in action! This individual is a female – the eyes are separated on the head – in the male both eyes touch each other. Bee-flies lay their eggs in the nests of bees such as mining bees and their larvae then feed on the bees’ larvae.

Bombylius major
Here is the distribution of the Dark-edged Bee-fly in Britain (courtesy of the National Biodiversity Network) – not that common in Devon.

2 thoughts on “The Bee-fly – it must be 17 degrees

  1. Pingback: A day of four seasons and still wildlife flourishes – A Dartmoor blog

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