Bee Fly – Lepidophora lepidocera

Bee Fly – Lepidophora lepidocera
Family BombyliidaeBee Flies. Commonly called Scaly Bee Fly
Live adult flies photographed in the wild at various North American locations.
Scaly Bee Fly

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I LOVE this fly. I've only seen a couple of times. Now I'm out in the field photographing blister beetles, and along comes this Lepidophora, and decides he/she wants to bask in the sun on my shirt. Or my pants. Or my fingers or arms, you name it. What fun! Except some of those little bastard stable flies that like to bite your ankles decided to bite my ankles while I was holding my breath trying not to scare this absolutely strange and beautiful creature.
Bee Fly Bee Fly - Lepidophora lepidocera Bee Fly

Bee flies get their common and scientific names from their resemblance to several different species of bees. However, if you look closely you can tell they have only one pair of wings, and their antennae are entirely wrong for a bee. Unlike bumblebees, they're fast – really fast and agile, with great ability to hover, like syrphid flies.

While adult Bombylius feed on nectar from early spring flowers (and carry pollen, which they don't eat, on their fur), the larvae are parasitoids or predators on bee larvae. And now you know the shocking truth – Bombylius are out so early so they can stash their eggs in the open tunnels of solitary bees while they are still being provisioned and before they get sealed up. When the female solitary bee goes in search of more pollen, the Bombylius hovers at the opening of the burrow. While still hovering, she ejects an egg inside the tunnel with a flick of her abdomen.

Bee Fly - Lepidophora lepidocera

Bee Fly - Lepidophora lepidocera


  1. Chen Young, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, "Crane Flies of Pennsylvania"
Flies of North America – Order Diptera. Flies are prevalent in virtually all habitats, with over 16,000 species in North America. Flies can be distinguished from all other insects in that they only have one pair of normal wings. Most flies have compound eyes and mouthparts adapted for piercing, lapping or sucking fluids. Insects & Spiders | Flies Index | Syrphidae | Bee Flies | Robber Flies