Mimicry: The resemblance of one organism to another for concealment and protection.
This large drone fly looks so much like male European honeybees that many predators often give this fly a pass.
I discovered this drone fly in late August dining on the onion flowers in my garden. At first I thought it was a large bee, but soon realized my mistake. After checking several sources I found some ways to tell the two apart.
- First, count the wings.
Two wings, no sting. (You’ve found a drone fly.)
Four wings, ouch. (If you mess with a queen or a worker bee you may get stung.)
- Second, does it hover in the air?
Drone flies are a type of hoverfly and — like the name suggests — they can hover like a helicopter. Honeybees can’t do that.
- Third, check the antennae.
Honeybees have longish antennae, with an elbow-like kink in each. Drone flies have little stubby knobs.
- Finally, look at its back.
Can you see the big black “H” just past the mid-section? You’ve got yourself a drone fly. Yup, I know honeybee starts with an “H”. Think helicopter or hoverfly instead. 🙂
Drone flies are the Jekyll and Hyde of the fly world. Adults are easy on the eyes. Larvae, are, well, um, icky to say the least. Some might say gross.
Rat-tailed maggots live in manure lagoons and similar places with high levels of “organic matter” (i.e. feces). The long “tail” is actually a breathing tube so the maggot can feed underwater without returning to the surface for air.
The University of Florida’s Featured Creatures website has excellent photos comparing honeybees and drone flies — and several of the rat-tailed maggots. You might also want to check out the description of “accidental myiasis”. That should keep you up at night.
Drone fly Eristalis tenax