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Bee Fly - Bombylius atriceps

Bee Fly - Bombylius atriceps
Auburn, Lee County, Alabama, USA
May 18, 2005
Is this specimen in Family Bombyliidae? The behavior of this insect was most interesting in that its proboscus was so deeply embeded in the jasmine flower it could move anywhere on the flower or underneath the flower and keep withdrawing nectar.

This appears to be a female B. atriceps. The extensive golden tomentum on the abdomen and wing pattern (brown ending at tip of R1) both fit this species.

Moved from Bombylius.

Thanks, Joel, for your helpful comments.

Genus is Heterostylum, colsely resembling Bombylius but, e.g., the head is much broader.


Heterostylum vs. Bombylius
Paul, I e-mailed Giff Beaton about a fly on his page that looks identical to the Lew's above (see Giff's photo) and to my two:

These all appear to be the same fly--wing venation and other characters look identical to me, and the phenology is right--I think all seen in the Southeast in May, in fact, all from mid to late May.

Giff agrees that my photos show the characters from the key in Manual of Nearctic Diptera:
posterior margin of eye deeply sinuate and head as wide or wider than the width of the thorax

However, Giff states about my specimens:
"In the chapter on Bombyliidae in MND by Hall (not Hull), there is a wing venation diagram for Heterostylum robustum, it does not match your specimen. The most obvious difference is at the M1 and R5 junction, in robustum M5 goes straight across R5 without a jog."

H. robustum is the species reported from the Southeast.

Any thoughts? These are closely-related genera, and you and Giff are way beyond me.

Thanks, Patrick, for your res
Thanks, Patrick, for your research into this fly. For us novices, this is what is needed to advance a few notches on the learning curve.

What to do?
I'm not sure what to do with this right now, whether to move it to Bombylius, or up to family level. I guess we should leave these here right now and gather some other opinions. Giff deserves most of the credit on sophisticated identification--I'm just quoting him.

This is a very tough family.

You can move it
When I identified it as Heterostylum using the key in the Manual of Nearctic Diptera. That does not use any wing characters but rather:

15. Posterior margin of eye deeply sinuate. Head as wide as or wider than width of thorax. -> Heterostylum
--. Posterior margin of eye whole, not sinuate. Head small, rarely if ever as wide as thorax. -> Bombylius

In the dorsal view the posterior margin of the eye was not clearly visible, at least not to an extent whether it was clear to be sinuate or not. Comparing with several European Bombylius species (see some images HERE), the head is broad and I would say virtually of the same width as the thorax. Hence my identification as Heterostylum. The other images now show a similar specimen, with broad head, that has a whole posterior margin of the eye. Fair enough, that would be Bombylius and so would this first one then be. Still, it leaves me wondering about the relationships between (some of?) the Nearctic and Palaearctic Bombylius species.

Thanks, will move
Thanks, Paul. We all really appreciate the expertise. Since Lew's photos seem to show the same species, maybe I'll make a "Bombylius species-a" guide to put them all together, then we can have an ID in the future, I hope.

Hmm. I found this fly in rather ordinary deciduous habitat in North Carolina, and it has also been found by Giff Beaton in Georgia. It is probably a widespread species, easily collected. Looking at Brimley, Insects of North Carolina (1), Bombylius atriceps is mentioned from much of that state, collected in April and May (June in the mountains). Another widespread species with similar phenology is B. varius, collected from Raleigh (near Durham) and the Sandhills area. I'll bet it is one of those two, most likely B. atriceps.

Thanks, Paul.
Thanks, Paul.

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