Black-Tailed Bee Fly (Bombylius major)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Black-Tailed Bee Fly.
Updated: 2/8/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Black-Tailed Bee Fly is disguised as a fuzzy stinging bee, giving it time for tranquil visits to flowers and drink the nectar.
The Black-Tailed Bee Fly is a hairy, hovering, and buzzing mimic of a bumble bee. The yellow body and legs are colors that typically warn off predators that do not want to deal with a stinger. This is a fly, though, so it does not have a stinger. The long proboscis ('tongue') quickly gives away its true identity. Bee Flies also have long, thin legs that lack pollen baskets. They also lack fuzzy legs typically found on the hind legs of honeybees and bumble bees.
Adults drink flower nectar and are fond of lilac and plum flowers. Larvae have a more nefarious diet. Female Black-Tailed Bee Fly lays her fertilized eggs in the ground nests of certain solitary bee species. The Black-Tailed Bee Fly larvae hatch and eat the larvae of the resident bees, making them parasites. Once they eat the competition, they go on to eat any food stores left by their mother. They will then pupate in that nest and eventually emerge as adults in the summer.
This species is most active in the summer on sunny days. They can be found in open fields, backyards and parks, either resting on plants or buzzing over blossoms. They are able to hover over the flowers they drink from, much like a hummingbird. Males will often hover over flowers while waiting for a female to pass by. Males then dart after the female in the hope of mating with her. While observers can get close, the Black-Tailed Bee Fly is quite aware of its surroundings and can bolt away so quickly, they are difficult to catch.