Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bee Fly (Bombylius sp.)

While I was photographing the Chokeberry flowers, the strangest little creature flew up, fed on the flower for a few seconds and then flew off. It looked like an alien insect - brown and furry – with a long proboscis. I was fascinated but managed a couple of quick shots before it took off. It made a moderately loud buzzing sound so I was able to follow it even though I could barely see it. It flew down the shore line a little way and then circled back for a second go at the flower I was photographing.

Here it is…
I didn’t have the faintest idea what it was but searched Google Images using ‘flying insect long proboscis’ with not much hope of finding it. But, there on the first page were two images that resembled it. It appears to be a bee fly, Sparnopolius confuses. I only got a good look from the front and, although I had a reasonable idea of what it looked like, I couldn’t get a photograph of the entire insect. It left a second time and didn’t return.

I didn’t expect to see another one. But I was standing in a weed patch at home photographing butterflies when I saw another one. Talk about a nervous and deliberate insect. This fly approached the dead goldenrod over my shoulder and, like a helicopter, hovered for the longest time, trying to decide whether to land. It aborted its landing and flew around in a circle and approached a landing again and again and again and… Finally it would land but only stay for a few seconds before it repeated the whole process again and again and again. I stood there for about 30 minutes waiting to get a photograph. I’d decide to leave but then wait just in case… It seemed really nervous. Even refocusing the camera was enough to startle it into another flight and approach.

Surprisingly it landed on the foliage on the ground and I managed to get a photograph that shows the pigment pattern on its wings.

I searched Bug Guide. There are two genera that contain species that resemble this insect; Sparnopolius and Lordotus. The insects color resembles Sparnopolius confuses.None of the photographs in Bug Guide show this pigment pattern on the wings. Allison Hazen’s photograph has identified ‘her’ insect as Sparnopolium confuses and does indicate a similar pigment pattern on its wings.

Any thoughts on this identification?

Many thanks to Zombieroach for correcting my identification. Bombylius sp. do exhibit the pigment pattern on the wings.
Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:
Bug Guide:
- Bee Fly (Sparnopolius confusus)

Bee Fly (Bombylius sp.)
- Allison Hazen. Best of (Macro Photography) (Set): Bee Fly (Sparnopolius confusus)


zombieroach said...

That looks like it is in the genus Bombylius. They emerge in spring and the larvae are solitary bee parasitoids.

zombieroach said...

Probably Bombylius major, but I am not sure.

JSK said...

Thanks so much!!! Really appreciate your interest.

Glad I got the right subfamily but didn't troll far enough through the tribes. The wing pattern is definitely similar to the Bombylius spp.

Don't think I'll ever make an entomologist but really enjoyed these little guys