10 July 2015

Western Bee-fly: 10 July

Spent some time watching Western Bee-flies Bombylius canescens, at Chudleigh Knighton Heath Devon Wildlife Trust reserve today. Found a colony of around five or six that were firing eggs into the nest burrows of their host mining bee species. Not still for a second, these are darn tricky to photograph! All were females as far as I could see (eyes do not meet at the top).

Female Western Bee-fly Bombylius canescens firing eggs into the nest hole of a mining bee by flicking their abdomen downwards,
Chudleigh Knighton Heath, 10 July

A bee-fly's view of the target - a mining bee burrow entrance, Chudleigh Knighton Heath, 10 July

Two or three were often depositing eggs into the same mining bee nest at a time

They periodically collect dust from bare patches of soil with the tip of their abdomen, to coat each egg to give it extra weight to help it
reach it's target

You can clearly see the 'basket' of dust and soil collected on the tip of the abdomen in this shot

They spent very little time resting. Note the dark femora as well as the dark bristles amongst the pale hairs behind the eyes which
help distinguish from the even rarer Heath Bee-fly Bombylius minor.

Western Bee-fly is a very scarce species, mainly restricted to south-west England, south Wales and eastern Ireland. They fly from May to August.


  1. Stunning photos and what an amazing thing to witness..
    Amanda xx

  2. Wonderful shot of the egg basket. Love the aerial angle above the bee burrow also. I was photographing heath bee-flies in Dorset this week and wondered what the abdomen-dipping behaviour was:


    1. Many thanks. That's high praise indeed from someone who takes such great photos. I've just taken a look at your blog and am blown away by some of your pics. I particularly like the sand digger wasp images. Excellent stuff.