Have you seen the Greater Beefly? At this time of year this fly is on the wing looking very much like a small bee as it hovers low on the ground or at flowers. However, a close look will show that it has a very distinct, black front-edge to its wings and a long proboscis which sticks straight out in front. The dense orangey brown fur on its body is also very characteristic.
This one is Bombylius major one of nine species of beeflies recorded in the UK although only three have been found in Scotland. The others are Bombylius canescens with a few costal local records before 1909, and Villa paniscus a tiny beefly of sand dunes last found in Aberlady in 1967 and Tentsmuir in 1977. However, B. major is quite common with a scattering of records from our area from the beginning of April to the beginning of June.
This fly is a parasite of burrowing solitary bees and the flies can be seen in spring hovering near the burrows, watching for the bees to leave. The beefly then swoops in and flicks an egg down the burrow and leaving before the bee comes back. The hatching maggot finds and eats the food store of pollen along with the bee grubs.
TWIC has very few records of this very distinctive fly and it would be very interesting to know where and when it is found. If you see one (or have in the past seen one) please let us know – giving details of the place, 6-figure grid reference and date along with any observations you can make about weather, habitat or behaviour. If you see any solitary bees in the area that would be a bonus. Once we have your records we will draw up a map showing the known distribution.
Please send your records, and any photos, to me at :
With thanks, Alastair Sommerville