Bee Fly

Photo by: Bryan Reynolds


How old is the oldest known fossil of a Bee Fly?

The oldest fossilized Bee Fly is about 140 million years old!

Bombyliidae sp.

Flies from the Bombyliidae family are found throughout the northern hemisphere, such as in North America, Europe, and Asia, and are found in cosmopolitan or arid environments. This family of flies imitates bees, bumblebees in particular as that is how they got their common and scientific name. Bee flies are stout, brown, fuzzy, buzz when they fly, and their bodies are between 4mm and 40mm long. Those are some traits similar to bumblebees, however some differentiating traits are their two wings, large eyes, skinny long legs, and very short antennae.

Their flying capabilities reflect hovering, agility, and fast maneuvering, where they can change directions quickly or dart away. To get nectar they use their proboscis, a stiff and long tongue, while hovering next to the flower. Hovering helps them avoid predators that may be hiding in the flowers. The pollen is transported by sticking to their furry coat and falls off at other flowers. Some flowers that they visit in the early spring are Claytonia virginicas and act just as efficiently at pollinating them as bees do.

While hovering, the bee fly will look for bee nests to lay eggs in. This is a parasitic relationship where the newly hatched larvae will find their way to the chamber where the bees lay their eggs, and eat all of the stored pollen, as well as the bee larvae. Once grown, it will pupate and stay in the nest until Spring comes around once more.

Written by: Christian Newkirk, an undergraduate Environmental Science student at the University of Oklahoma