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Bee Fly (Bombylius major) | by Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel
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Bee Fly (Bombylius major)

Imagine life with an 8 foot tongue, dressed up as a bee, hovering like a humming bird. That's life as a Bee fly, which makes its springtime appearance in the UK during end March/early May. They have the most extraordinary proboscis which sticks out straight in front and makes them look like some "must avoid" predator; in fact they're about as harmless to humans as can be, and very flighty too. They make a buzzing noise in flight, and resemble bumblebees both in appearance and sound. Look for bee flies in sunny spots in parks, gardens, meadows and open fields, especially on slopes, and especially if you notice a bee that just seems too fast for a bee!


You can tell that they're a fly because Flies have only a single pair of functional wings, whereas bees have 2 pairs. Eyes almost touching above, especially in males - which probably makes this a boy if you look carefully. Adults generally feed on nectar and pollen, some being important pollinators, often with spectacularly long proboscises adapted to plants such as Lapeirousia species with very long, narrow floral tubes. While the Bombyliidae include a large number of species in great variety, most species do not often appear in abundance, and for its size this is one of the most poorly known families of insects. There are at least 4,500 described species, and certainly thousands yet to be described.


Technical: the challenge here was to find some way to show off this fella's proboscis, which I found hard! Took me 4(!) attempts to get even half right I'm ashamed to say. The first was a disaster because the very long proboscis gave me all sorts of perspective errors, the second was at the wrong angle, the third was better but the background came out a ghastly orange rather than brown, and this is the 4th. The issue for me was really the problem of getting the right background that would accomodate both its white mane (which needs a dar background to really show well) and its dark proboscis (which needed the opposite, a light background, argh). I tried it first with a Componon 80 but that was the perspective disaster; this is an elnikkor50 f/2.8 reversed which did ok but maybe I've become to used to the super resolution of microscope objectives that this lens now disappoints me! Weird. Other than that 3 flashes with tissue paper diffusion, one either side and one on the bottom, stack of 160 shots.


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Taken on March 26, 2012