Bee Fly – Bombylius major

Bee Fly – Bombylius major
Family BombyliidaeBee Flies
Live adult bee flies photographed at northern Illinois.

Male bee fly at rest, Bombylius major
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Bee flies do not sting or bite and are completely harmless to humans and pets. The conspicous needle-like proboscis is adapted for sucking flower nectar. Many bee flies hover in midair while doing their nectaring, undoubtedly to avoid capture by insects or spiders lurking about flower blooms, looking for an easy meal, e.g. ambush bugs and crab spiders.

I most often see bee flies around flowers, or if resting, usually on the ground on bare soil. They are extremely wary and difficult to approach. No doubt their large compound eyes give them good vision, plus they have that air-motion sensing mechanism that helps the ordinary house fly avoid the swatter. Adult bee flies drink nectar, but the larvae are parasites of beetle larvae as well as the brood of solitary wasps and bees, the hole or burrow-nesting insects.

All in all, a fascinating insect worthy of study. Next springtime, why not take a trip to the woods? Anywhere with dandelions will do.

Bee Fly - Bombylius major

These bee flies are vibrating their butts in the dust. Gif Beaton says they are "gathering sand to coat their eggs," but I don't really know what they are doing. If you look closely, you can see the little ring-shaped cloud of dust they are generating.

I have seen some brands of syrphid flies do the same thing.

Also note, the flies have their long legs firmly anchored to the ground  (below). These flies are fairly coated with very fine sand.

The larval stages live as parasites in the nests of solitary bees (e.g., Andrena, Halictus and Colletes species), where they eat the food stores and grubs of their host.

In Japanese: biroudu tsuriabu.

Bee Fly vibrating her butt in the sand.

Bee Fly vibrating her butt in the sand.


  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.
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