Common Errors (Flower Fly, Syrphidae)

large honeybee fly mimic on a small scraggly yellow-centered flower
A honeybee mimic (family Syrphidae) digs into a small flower.

Many syrphid flies are bee and wasp mimics. They also happen to comprise the largest group of photos that I have seen misidentifying a fly as a bee. They are pretty good mimics, especially at an offhand glance. Even at a casual glance, though, you can notice the fly lacks the long, jointed antennae of a honeybee. (Those little, rounded nubs at the front of its head are the fly’s antennae.) The fly eyes also tend to be more bulbous than the flatter, more oblong honeybee eyes. While some flies do a remarkable job of mimicking the movement in addition to the appearance of the original models — including a bot fly I once found (and will someday share photos of) that looked and flew just like a bumblebee — these honeybee mimics tend to buzz around like flies: abruptly, in sweeping arcs, and noisily. A skittish wariness more a propos of a fly than a bee.

Just as a clarifying addendum, because I’ve tagged and titled a bunch of different names, members of family Syrphidae are sometimes referred to as flower flies (they likes the flowers), as well as hover flies because they will actually hover in the air besides flowers (though in my experience these hoverers tend to be the small, more common syrphids). Flies like the one pictured in this post are sometimes called “drone flies” although technically speaking that may be more properly a common name for one particular species; that distinction I’m not as clear on.


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