Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, September 9, 2011

Accidental Pollinators

There are a number of insects that I find in my garden that are 'accidental' pollinators because in the process of  drinking nectar from flowers pollen sticks to them. Among these are a group of insects often mistaken for bees but are in fact flies.

I spotted one such fly for the first time in my garden this week. This bee fly (belonging to the Bombyliidae family) is a furry little ball with a long needle like proboscis. The proboscis is often mistaken for a stinger (but if it were a stinger it would be located at the other end!) but, like butterflies, is used to sip up nectar from blooms. This particular bee fly seemed to like my Russian Sage.

Like syrphid flies, these bee flies can hover in mid-air, something bees can't do. Another visual clue is that when they sit on a bloom their wings stick straight out rather than fold back like a bee's wing would.

All flies can be very useful pollinators. Although they are not as furry as bees and therefore making them less effective at carrying pollen they do inadvertently collect pollen on their bodies and contribute to the pollination of flowers and food plants.

They are often seen on the same plants as bees as pictured here on my Sedum 'Autumn Fire'.

They were moving with ease amongst the other traditional visitors.

Beetles were our first pollinators on ancient plants such as Magnolia and Spicebush. They too play an important role in pollination often attracted to blooms that are moderate nectar producers and sweet or spicy smelling. This colorful guy was amongst the bees, butterflies and flies on the ever popular Sedum.

And perhaps this baby anole walking around the Lantana could even be considered an 'accidental' pollinator.

Linking to Macro Friday and Camera Critters.


  1. Learned something new today. Not sure I've ever seen or heard of a bee fly, but I'll be on the lookout for them now. Great pics.

  2. I have never seen some of these pollinators...great facts and pics Karin...

  3. These are all lovely and you are a brave photographer - this is too close for me.

  4. I love bee flies! I'd never seen one until we lived here. When I first saw their sharp lance-like proboscis it was rather intimidating, but once I realized they weren't in the least bit interested in me, I found them rather fascinating! It's so much fun watching the pollinators in the garden, both accidental, and intentional, although I have yet to find a lizard scrabbling among my flowers, too cute.

  5. Wow! What fabulous shots! I've never seen a proboscis like this on a fly!

  6. Really nice photos, Karin. The bee fly is a unique little pollinator. I have been seeing so many of the Ailanthus webworm moths this year, and never saw one before the first one last year. They are pretty, but I am not sure about welcomed.

  7. How cute! I've never seen a bee fly either - I'll have to be on the lookout!

  8. I love the whole set of photos! I had a lot to learn when I first started taking photos of flies/bees. It's so interesting. I love the bee fly.

  9. HolleyGarden, I saw my first bee fly hiking in North Georgia last year. I was really very excited to see one in my garden.

    Thanks Donna!

    Lauri, LOL...I can do snakes to spiders but there are two critters I don't care for and those are cockroaches and mice.

    Curbstone Valley, I do have lots of lizards in my garden and this year I am seeing more than any previous years. They are so cute and fun to watch!

    Barbara, the proboscis does look intimidating especially relative to the size of the fly!

    Donna (GWGT), I mistakenly identified the Ailanthus webworm moth as a beetle because it tucks its wings under itself to look like a beetle and is out during the day which is uncharacteristic of moths. I am trying to appreciate all the insects both beneficial and pests to keep a natural balance in my garden.

    Indie, they are very tiny so look closely!

    Thanks Sheri! Taking photos of the often overlooked insects is definitely interesting!

  10. Wow - each photo is so lovely!

  11. Awesome captures. Love all your accidental pollinators. Busy busy busy.

  12. Love that furry little fly. I hadn't thought about it that way but you make a great point about numerous insects being accidental pollinators.

  13. Jennifer@threedogsinagarden
    Karin, Great photographs! I have never heard of or seen a bee fly before. Sedum is certainly a popular flower at this time of year.

  14. Great post and photos. I learn a new critter( the bee fly) today.

  15. You captured some beauties! I just did learn about these pollinating flies. It's so cool they are so furry. That colorful guy is so pretty. Almost like a stained glass.

  16. That's so cool. I've heard of flies that look like bees but had never seen one before. I like the orange beetle with the white and black pattern. I saw one recently for the first time and thought it was stunning.

  17. I love the anole as an accidental pollinator...perfect! You have captured such great moments in nature.


"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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