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bee fly

bee fly, name for the small- to medium-sized flies of the family Bombyliidae, many of which resemble bees in appearance and behavior. This mimicry provides bee flies with some measure of protection against predators that have learned to avoid the sting of true bees. A bee fly has a stout, hairy body and long proboscis. In many species the body and wings are strikingly marked in yellow and brown. Most are very swift fliers and buzz loudly like a bee if caught in a net. They seek heat and are often found flying close to the ground in dry, sandy regions. The adults feed on nectar and hover above flowers like bees. The larvae feed on larvae or pupae of other insects; they are beneficial as parasites of harmful species. Beelike flies are also found in other families. The syrphid flies (family Syrphidae), also called hover flies and flower flies, are a large, cosmopolitan group of beelike and wasplike flies. Many syrphid flies bear a very close resemblance to a particular bee or wasp species. Many of the robber flies (family Asilidae) resemble bumblebees. All of these are true flies; they are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Diptera.

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Bombyliidae

Bombyliidae (bee-flies; order Diptera, suborder Brachycera) Family of flies, most of which are medium to large, with densely pubescent bodies and slender legs. The proboscis is elongate, points forward, and is adapted for feeding on nectar from flowers with long corollas. The third antennal segment is simple, with the style small or absent. Their common name refers to their appearance and adult behaviour, and to their larvae which are parasitic upon bees and wasps, although some species have larvae which parasitize other insects. Eggs are laid near the entrance to the nest of the specific bee host parasitized by that species of bee-fly. The tiny larvae enter the nest and usually wait until the bee larva has pupated before metamorphosing from a small, mobile animal to a smooth, fat larva which feeds on the bee pupa. The bee-fly pupa is dual-phased. The first pupa is ‘normal’; the second stage has a sharp battering ram with which to break down the nest cell wall, made by the adult bee when closing the cell. The adult bee-fly emerges once the second stage pupa has ruptured the seal. More than 2000 species of bee-flies have been described.

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