An unexpected home visit from a bee mimic

This hoverfly might be narcissus bulb fly. Boo hoo.

It sure looked like some kind of red-headed bee to me when I found it sitting on a Pelargonium leaf in my west-facing window. Out came a drinking glass and piece of card to capture it while I researched: What the heck is it?

Then I emailed my fuzzy photos of this furry “bee” to urban bee researcher Scott McIvor. He had a quick reply about he or she. Not a bee, but a bee mimic:

“Definitely a she, but not a bee! This is a hover fly (or flower fly) in the family Syrphidae. Still pollinators but nowhere near as effective as bees. When you see two wings (not four), and arista (the funny little hair on the short antenna), you know it’s a fly.

The larva are extremely effective pest controllers. Eat lots of aphids, scales, and other plant-sucking insects.”

That sounded good, but it sent me to to try to nail the ID down. Unfortunately, it looks like this particular little girl might be a baddie after all, Merodon equestris or narcissus bulb fly – perhaps emerging from one of my amaryllis bulbs. [Update: This is one of the few hoverfly species that is a horticultural pest.] Ah well. ‘Twas brief but elucidating stay from an unexpected visitor.

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