Dandelions may be the curse of the city dweller, but in the
country-side they serve a useful function. As the flower-
heads open in the early spring, they become an important
source of nectar for social bumblebees and honeybees, as
well as the considerable variety of solitary bees.
So it was not unusual one sunny warm spring afternoon at
Eagle Lake to notice many different types of bees actively
flitting from one dandelion to another, including an
example of a solitary bee, a metallic green-coloured
sweat bee (Figure 1).
But there was something different in the foraging
behaviour of two bee-like insects. One closely resembled
the body coloration and stoutness of a bumblebee, but
with its quite short, straight antennae, differing mouth
parts and one pair of wings (bumblebees have two pairs),
this was the Bee-fly (Mallotus bautias) (Figure 2).
The other bee mimic (Figure 3) is one of the hover flies,
Black-tailed Bee Fly (Bombyllius major), again with a
single pair of wings and also lacking the longer, angled
type of antennae characteristic of the true bee families.
This insect, with its rapidly beating wings, hovers over the
dandelion head inserting its long needle-like mouth part
into the many individual flowers (Figure 4).
For a variety of reasons, mimicry is a common
occurrence in insects and some harmless flies obviously
take advantage by resembling members of the bee family
with their stinging capability.