Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

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Megaloptera, Neuroptera, Mecoptera, Thysanoptera

Bee Mimickers

Flower Flies (also known as "hover flies" because of their tendency to hover in mid-air), members of the Syrphidae family (Suborder Brachycera), are especially interesting insects.  They are overlooked by nearly everybody but farmers, who recognize them as one of the most important groups of insects beneficial to humans.  They're not only important pollinators, but they dispose of crop pests as carnivorous larvae.  They're also known as "hover flies" because they frequently hover in the air for long periods of time.  There are 15 genera in all, and hundreds of species.  See an online page from  University of Florida Principles of Entomology (ENY 305) class for more detailed information.

Bee Flies (family Bombyliidae, suborder Brachycera), by comparison, do not benefit farmers.  Large Bee Flies (Bombylius major) prey on bees by laying their eggs in the entrance tunnel of solitary bees' nest so that the hatching larvae can feed on larval bees.  They do not threaten honeybees, however.

 

Yellowjacket Hoverfly (Milesia virginiensis), (according to Josh Rose of Duke U.), Little Scaly Mountain, 8/16/04.  This was the biggest flower fly of the bunch, maybe an inch long.

Yellowjacket Hoverfly,  Little Scaly Mountain, 8/15/04.  This one liked to hover in the air next to me when I was out on the porch, wings invisible. Yellowjacket Hover-Fly, Al Buehler Trail, Duke University, NC, 8/22/05.  This fly was apparently ovipositing (egg-laying) at the time on an old stump.

 

Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) Durham, 9/3/05, near swamp.  IDs of all on this row based on Marshall (2006), p. 469. Drone Fly, Durham, 9/8/05.  This fly showed up in the swamp in my neighborhood. Drone Fly, NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 10/30/05 Carolina Beach State Park, 10/19/05.  Possibly a Drone Fly.

 

Flower Fly (Xanthogramma flavipes), Boone, Watauga County, 8/31/05. Flower Fly (Xanthogramma flavipes), Durham, 3/4/06.

Flower Fly  (Chrysotoxum flavifrons), NC Botanical Garden, 11/06/04.  Many species of flower flies have striped honeybee-like abdomens, but there are many variations on this basic theme. Flower Fly (Chrysotoxum flavifrons), Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 3/17/06.  Probably the same species as the fly on the left. Flower Fly (probably Chrysotoxum flavifrons), Durham, 10/26/05.  This fly looks as though it has sunglasses on. American Hoverfly (Metasyrphus americanus), New Hanover Botanical Garden, Wilmington, NC, 7/17/04 Toxomerus Hoverfly (Toxomerus geminatus), Durham, 4/15/05. 

 

Flower Fly (Toxomerus germinatus), Durham (swamp), 9/19/05.  All I could see at first was the abdomen waving up and down.  Now it seems that this fly was ovipositing (laying eggs). Same fly Mating flies, Durham, 10/1/05 Mating flies, Durham, 10/3/05. Durham, 7/12/05, near a stream.  It was no more than inch long. Carolina Beach, 12/12/05.

 

Mason Farm Biological Reserve, 10/23/05 Polydontomia curvipes, Durham, 6/12/05.  This fly  continually bobbed its abdomen up and down.

 

NC Botanical Garden, Orange County, NC, 10/30/05 Greenville, Pitt County, NC, 2/16/06

 

NC Botanical Garden, 11/06/04.  This looks more like an ordinary housefly (not really a flower fly). Just for comparison:  Honeybee, Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, Wake County, NC, 3/17/06

Bee Flies (Family Bombyliidae)

Bee Fly, maybe Systoechus genus, Durham, 9/28/05.   This is the only time I've seen this species of bee fly. Mystery bee fly, Durham, 8/13/05 Bee Fly (Hemipenthes sinuosa), Carolina Beach State Park, 4/28/05.  Contrary to what its name might suggest, the larvae of these flies prey on beetle larvae. Bee Fly, Hemipenthes genus, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 6/7/06 Bee Fly, Eno River State Park, Old Cole Mill Road access, Orange County, NC, 5/19/06. Wings seem clear, might be a Systoechus.

 

Large Bee Fly (Bombylius major), 
Santee NWR, Orangeburg County, SC, 3/26/06.
Large Bee Fly, Durham, 4/15/05.  Note the long, thin proboscis. 

© Copyright 2005-2006 by Dorothy E. Pugh