Flies That Look Like Bees at Chicago Garden

Hover Fly that looks like a bee at Chicago Garden.png
On the heels of the urban bees in my garden post, I thought I’d share some pictures of flies that look like bees. The fly in the photo above is a syrphid fly. These flies are also known as hover flies, flower flies and bee flies. Here are couple of photos of these bee flies in my garden and some tips on how to tell them apart from real bees.

Black and white stripped fly that looks like a bee in Chicago garden.png

yellow and black fly that looks like a bee in Chicago garden.png

Hairy brown fly that looks like a bee in Chicago garden.png

There is conflicting information about whether or not these flies that look like bees are important pollinators in the garden. Some sources say they eat pollen, while other say they don’t. Like bees though, they do feed on nectar and can transfer pollen from one flower to another. When I first started gardening outdoors I mistook these flies for bees. I’ve since learned how to tell them apart from real bees and now don’t waste time chasing them around the garden with the camera.

Here are three characteristics I use to tell bees apart from flies:

The first clue is that these flies “hover” while bees don’t. They way they fly is very different from bees.

The second clue is the eyes.

Bee fly and honeybee heads and eyes at Chicago garden.png

Flies have large eyes set on the top and front of their heads while bees have them on the side of the head. Bees have long, thin antennae while flies have stubby or no visible antennas. The real bee in the photo above is on the right while the fly that looks like a bee is on the left.

Bee and bee fly wings how to tell bees at Chicago garden.png

The third clue I look for to tell bees apart from the bee mimics is the wings. Bees have four wings, two per side, while flies only have two, one on each side. Bees will hold their wings over their back while flies hold splayed out to the sides like in the image above. The bee is on the right and the fly is on the left.

These are just the three characteristics I use to identify these flies. They also have different looking legs and mouth parts and unlike bees they don’t carry pollen sacks. See the photos in the post on the urban bees in my garden to see for yourself.

Batesian mimicry is pretty cool, eh?


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  • Thanks for this informative post!

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    No problem.

    Figure some people may be out there who have a need for the info since I was getting them confused for a while when I started gardening outdoors.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Wow. I had a ton of those flies in the top picture. They fooled me! I thought they were a small type of bee.

    But why do they mimic bees?

  • In reply to Arianika:

    The mimics take on the look of another that could be dangerous or put up a fight in order to fool others into thinking that they can do the same.

  • In reply to Arianika:

    Ck out www.xerces.org.

  • In reply to Arianika:

    Thanks for writting on this. Frank and I saw a fly the other day that looked like the head of the fly on the body of a small bee and we were so confused! I came up with this elaborate theory attributing the dissapearance of bees to this weird hybrid mutation with flies. I guess that was just scifi...

  • In reply to TrixieSlayer:


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