Saturday, January 26, 2008

My friend the bee fly: A mystery solved

I thought this was just too cool to pass on blogging about.

In September or October of last year, when visiting with Panama in the pastures at his new home, I saw a really strange little critter. It was about an inch long, fuzzy, and greyish in color. It had the shape and size of a bumblebee, but moved like a hummingbird, darting and hovering in midair. I also saw it drinking nectar out of little flowers in the pasture.

I'd wondered about the mysterious creature, but forgot about it for a while. The other night I thought about it for some reason, and decided to see if I could find out what it was.

My first thought had been that it was a tiny hummingbird. I looked it up tonight, and found that there are two kinds of hummingbirds that small: bumblebee hummingbirds, found in Mexico and the United States, and bee hummingbirds, a nearly extinct bird found only in Cuba (and the smallest bird in the world!). Obviously it couldn't have been the Cuba bird, and it didn't have the vivid coloring of the other one.

I also ran across pictures of hummingbird moths. These live in Colorado, apparently, but are way too big and colorful to be what I saw.

Finally, I decided to search for "gray bee." (See, this is where knowing how to milk Google really pays off!) Almost right away, I found this: a picture of a gray bee fly. Here's a picture of a similar bee fly. They look kind of grotesque when magnified to that size, but trust me, they look really cool in person.

The final test was whether they could move like hummingbirds. According to a description I found, bee flies hover and dart just like I saw. I'm thrilled — my mystery has been solved!


Kathy@TheFlawlessWord said...

Good to see someone else is intrigued by nature as I am.

Katharine Swan said...

Always. I'm the only person I know of who stops to take pictures when a really big, ugly spider crawls out of the laundry. :o)


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