Monday, June 15, 2009

Imitation is not just flattery

Every time I stop to watch bees on flowers, I run into something else new. While the bees have so far been concentrating on the salvias and the bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus), they are now showing an interest in the newly blooming lamb's ears (Stachys byzantina):
As I was zooming in on the bees, I heard a different kind of buzzing and caught this fellow (or gal) hovering about:
Hmm. Looks and acts bee-ish – hovering, buzzing, feeding on nectar – but isn't. But also not a yellowjacket or wasp.

(Edit: I originally posted that this was a member of the Syrphid family, known as a flower fly or hover fly. But I was wrong, as a commenter pointed out. It's really a wool carder bee, a solitary member of the bee family.)
What was funny about this one, though, was that it had decided that the clump of lamb's ears was its exclusive territory. Every time a bee would come in for a taste, the fly would land on the bee and drive her off. That would happen too fast for me to get a photo, sorry!

But it didn't seem to mind me hovering around with my camera, and even set down for a portrait.
The lamb's ear makes for some very '70s upholstery, don't you think? And the bee looks to be wearing shades. Cool, man.


  1. I thought if it sounded like a bee and looked like a bee, it was a bee. Not so. How nice of it to pose for you, so we could get a good look.

  2. absolutely gorgeous pics! what kind of camera you got? awesome post and kind of you to share what you have learned! that last pic is groovy baby!lol big hugs from leslie:)

  3. I'm usually freaked out by any bee-like insect (guess that's understandable since I could die), but the flower fly's actually kind of cute!

  4. Betts, a lot of the time it is some kind of bee (there are hundreds of varieties!) but I'm learning that there are lots of imitators out there, too.

    Thanks, Leslie! The camera is a point-and-shoot set on macro. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX07. I think you can still find them at $170 (it's an older model, but takes nice pictures and is pocket-sized, which is key for me).

    Thanks, Pam! Patience is rewarded in photography, at least.

    Vicki, happily this particular buzzer doesn't bite!

  5. Wow that is a weird looking little guy! My privots are blooming and I noticed they have as many flies on them as bees. I never noticed that before.

  6. Head-bonkers are funny

  7. Oh wow, HB. That's totally it! I will have to publish a retraction. I looked and looked at bug pictures, and the syrphidae seemed to fit. (Check out this poster for example.

    Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.