Seen in the garden in October.
Eristalis tenax, so named because it looks like a drone honeybee. It is a hoverfly variety that visits many garden flowers in summer and autumn. I have found them to frequent the Shasta Daisies and the coreopsis. There are over 6,000 species of hoverfly throughout the world.
Eristalis tenax, seen in the garden in June.
When they are flying, drone flies are sometimes mistaken for bees. They are useful pollinators distinguished from bees by their wings. When they are at rest, you can readily see that they have only one pair of wings, whereas bees have two pairs. They also have tiny antennae, another distinguishing factor.
They are seen on garden flowers harvesting nectar and pollen just like the bees. When you are out gardening, listen as they buzz around like bees. Notice too that many of them look like bees and wasps with yellow and black patterning. This form of mimicry is termed Batesian mimicry.
But they do not have the defensive behavior or weapons of the bees and wasps.
Some Syrphids are big and fuzzy like the bumblebees, whereas some are smooth and look similar to yellow jackets.
Hoverfly fuzzy like a Ginger Bumblebee
Drone Flies do not possess a stinger which is much different from the bees that they mimic. This is very useful looking like a dangerous insect like the two wasps below. Certain hoverflies look more similar to wasps than bees.
I hope the macro photos of the wasps don’t make you squeamish. They do make interesting photography subjects.
Ancistrocerus antilop, I think.
They lack the pollen baskets of bees, but the pollen adheres to their furry bodies, and is easily transported from plant to plant. In the image below, you can see the pollen stuck to the abdomen hairs of the fly.
The larvae of the Drone Fly feeds on decaying organic material in stagnant water, such as found in ponds and drainage ditches. Stagnant water contains little oxygen. The larvae address this with a long, thin breathing tube that extends from its hind end to the surface of the water, like a snorkel. This appendage gives the larvae its common name of ‘rat-tailed maggot’. Maggots are one thing in nature I really don’t like much.
The Drone Fly is not native to North America but is a European import that arrived here prior to 1874. (source BugGuide ). While Drone Flies mimic bees, here in America we are developing technology that mimics bees and drone flies too.
The US military is developing micro drones, you know, those little bee-like robots. You all have heard of the drones we use in war-time in Iraq and Afghanistan. They rain down weaponry and surveillance from the sky above.
Remember my post on BEEbots? Well the US has been accused of developing spy insects since 2007 as tiny remote-controlled flyers based on insect movement and physiology.
The University of Pennsylvania General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception Lab recently exhibited a network of “20 nano quadrotors” flying in coordinated formations forming a network of flying robots. This was what I was assuming would be the most difficult of tasks for the Beebots. Apparently it has been solved and you can see them in action in the link above.
The insect drones will have bee-like hairs to identify biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, too. That seems like a very beneficial service they will provide. So Drone Flies mimic bees, and now the military will be mimicking the Drone Flies…
Check out the YouTube video below. It is actually a mechanical hummingbird with a small camera on its head, and is pretty remarkable in bird-like appearance and flight too.
So drones will be everywhere soon. Well just maybe. Being tiny, you conspiracy theory types just might find them buzzing around your corporate computers. The applications for the ‘insect’ is endless in the spy business. Me, I like the real bees better.
My next post starts a series on images with thoughts. Stay tuned!