When is a bee not a bee?

When is a bee not a bee?  When it’s a fly, a hoverfly.  This mimic might look like a honey bee but something’s not quite right, it is too shiny and it hovers.  I thought it would be a simple case of identifying which hoverfly but it turns out there are quite a few hoverflies that look like bees.  I think the one in this picture,


Is this the common drone fly Eristalis tenax?

the one about which I was asked ‘What type of bee is this?’ is one of the Eristalini, possibly the common drone fly, Eristalis tenax.

Here are some basic difference between bees and flies for the uninitiated, like me:

Bees have 2 pairs of wings, flies only one pair.

At rest, bees fold their wings into their body.  Flies’ wings remain out at an angle.


Photo by Margaret Clavell

Bees’ eyes are more to the side of their head whereas flies’ eyes are larger and at the front.

Bees carry pollen in pollen sacs on their legs whereas it sticks to any part of the fly’s body.

Bee antennae tend to be longer than flies’.

To see more hoverflies on Naturespot click here

Please share your expertise!



Honey bee

Honey bee
Photo by Ken Thomas