When is a bee not a bee? When it’s a hover fly

On these long sunny June days most people are seeing thousands of bees everywhere they look. Or are they? The truth is, most honey bees people see are actually Drone Flies, species of hover fly which resemble honey bees. And there are way more of them than the bees. They are just as important too, as they pollinate the flowers of plants we depend on for our survival. Now, most of the bumblebees you see really are bumble bees. But there are some which are actually hover flies mimicking bees. Look at this beauty I found in my garden yesterday:

As large as a bumble bee, but actually an incredible hoverfly.
As large as a bumble bee, but actually an incredible hoverfly.
The secret to identifying this as a fly is the head. Flies have big eyes, like stereo speakers, whereas bees have two eyes on either side of pincer jaws, and three tiny eyes on the tops of their heads. Yes, you read correctly, bees have five eyes.
The secret to identifying this as a fly is the head. Flies have big eyes, like stereo speakers, whereas bees have two eyes on either side of pincer jaws, and three tiny eyes on the tops of their heads. Yes, you read correctly, bees have five eyes.

I am definitely not an expert identifier or hover flies, but I think this species is Merodon equestris, judging by the venation (the pattern of the veins on this fly’s wings) and the legs, which appear to be mostly black. If I’m wrong then it is almost certainly one of the Drone Flies, Eristalis intricarius.
So why look like a bee? Flies are mostly incapable of defending themselves. If you’re not tough enough to defend yourself from predators, then maybe you should look like you’re someone who is tough enough. And that’s what they do.

There’s a whole world of learning out there, and you really don’t know what you might see next in Wicklow’s wild world.

 

 

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