First of all, what is this insect? (Amelia? Anyone? NOW SEE BELOW FOR ID) I saw a couple in the garden last year but had no camera with me. Today I at least had my phone. I’m sure it’s completely obvious – ‘a sting-snouted lesser hornet’ – but I’d like an authoritative ruling. Additional clue: they can hover.
Thanks to Jessica of the excellent blog NATURE IN FOCUS for ID as a member of the Bombylidae family, with the common name of bee-flies (see comments below). That lead me to the Natural History Museum website, where I found a very similar creature Bombylius major. The wing patterns in particular look much the same.Here’s the NHM image.
Secondly, there’s supposed to be a pink moon either tonight at around 3.00 a.m. tomorrow morning; or possibly tomorrow night at 3.00 the next night… It’s caused by a lunar eclipse, expected to last from 2.00 am to 4.30. The pink / red is to do with angle and atmosphere (as with dawn and dusk). Apparently. I tried to photograph the moon last night here in Dorset, where the light pollution is not too bad. It shone with extraordinary brightness and ‘flared’ my attempts. I’ve pinked one up in case I don’t wake up for the real thing…
An opportunity to remember Nick Drake, I think… Here’s the full album for nostalgics – and just the title track to follow.
6 thoughts on “INSECT (BEE? FLY?) AND A PINK MOON (FOR NICK DRAKE?)”
Impressive invaders in your garden, RH!! I love how you pinked up the moon 😉 – I’m in the Rhine Valley so there’s no need to look out for the moon. I see only trees anyway… It’s different in Norfolk, with almost no light pollution and all that stuff.
Best wishes, Dina
I think this insect is a member of the Bombylidae, with the common name of bee-flies. There are twelve species of this true fly (Diptera) and most have stout, furry bodies with a strong similarity to bumble bees. The legs, however, are long and slender – not at all like bees. The wings are often coloured in some way; and the one on your photos has dark patches on the wing membranes. Like all true flies it only has a single pair of wings (one pair is reduced to short halteres, like sticks with a knob on the end, but I couldn’t see them in the pictures) – while bees have two pairs of wings. In Britain the best known species is Bombylius major. In spring it is often seen plunging its long proboscis into flowers. Although it appears to hover, it does in fact cling onto the flower with just one of its pairs of legs while feeding.
Brilliant, Jessica, thanks for such a quick ID. Now I’ll charge off down that track and check these creatures out. Until last year, I don’t recall ever seeing one before. Then I forgot all about them until today… The only thing is, this one definitely hovered, stationary, in mid-air 9 inches from the ground and not very close to a flower. It wasn’t feeding at all. Then it landed on the ground, hence the photo. RH
Maybe the book I referred to was wrong about the hovering! (Michael Chinery (1973) A Field Guide to Insects of Britain and Northern Europe, Collins). Did you also notice that your specimen was on the ground with its proboscis fully extended over the dirt? I wonder what that was about.
Jessica, I’ve now zeroed in on Bombylius major. There’s one on the NHM website that is identical (as far as I can tell). This one had its proboscis extended throughout – in flight and on the ground. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. I’ll add the NHM image and a credit!!! RH
Well done for staying up to get the pink moon. I’m afraid I was tucked up in bed. Amelia