Arnside and beyond

By gladders

Bee fly

A bee fly (Bombylius major) feeding on forget-me-not flowers.

They are a popular blip subject at this time of lockdown when everyone is spending more time in their gardens. This time in Spring is their time, they will be gone by June when the true bees are still going strong. The resemblance to a bee is no accident, this is an example of mimicry, a stingless insect fools would be predators to think it might have a sting in the tail. It is also said that its beelike appearance helps it in approaching the nests of solitary bees - and this is the bee fly's sting in the tail - where the female flicks her eggs at the nest entrance, for the bee fly's larvae are nest parasites.  When the eggs hatch, they enter the nest to feed on both the food brought in for the bee's larvae and on the larvae themselves.

As I was watching the bee fly hovering between the small forget-me-not flowers, I was marvelling at  the precision in which it controls its flight.  The wings beat constantly, even when the insect's long legs anchor it to an individual flower.  The proboscis is almost as long as the body and has to be inserted into the narrow flower tube to reach the nectar at the its base, and this is done without any of the needle threading fumbling we are familiar with. When the nectar has been drawn, the bee fly backs out in flight and moves smoothly to the next flower.

Consider that all this is controlled by a minute brain, programmed to perform complex movements perfectly every time.  Our robotic engineering and computer chip development has a long way to go to match it. Isn't nature wonderful?

Back blipped on 22 April

Comments New comments are not currently accepted on this journal.