While photographing purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) along the Tule River (Shasta County CA) I noticed hairy bee-like insects feeding on the loosestrife flower nectar. These insects are not bees but are flies (Order Diptera) – commonly called bee flies. I am no entomologist but believe these bee flies are an Anastoechus species, perhaps barbatus.
Bee flies belong to a family that contains thousands of members and are found worldwide. Generally they are not ostentatious with brown, grey, black and light colors predominating. The wings are swept back at an angle when resting. The long, slender mouth parts are specialized for feeding. The body is usually covered in abundant, dense hair. It is thought that bee flies resemble bees for defense, however, bee flies do not sting nor do they bite.
Adult bee flies feed on nectar and pollen using their long proboscis to probe flowers and sip the nectar. Larvae are parasites that feed on the larvae of other insects, particularly ground-nesting wasps and bees.
Bee flies are important pollinators of flowers and appear to be as efficient as bees at this task
This cute little fly is interesting to watch as it hovers midair over flowers rapidly changing directions and maneuvering with skill.