Common Name: Bee Fly
Scientific name/Genus: Villa (Lioy, 1864)
Authors: Esha Gill, Joshua M Hogan, Gloria J Stewart, Sandor Kelly, Ryan D Ridenbaugh
Most people assume when they hear a buzz from a small yellow bug, it is a bee, but that can sometimes be deceiving. It is possible that the insect you have found is a bee fly. These insects are small furry pollinators with unique lifestyles. Don’t be fooled by their cute characteristics, however, for these bee flies are also parasitoids.
Villa is a genus within the bee fly family, Bombyliidae. The flies in this genus are small, with black bodies, some with yellow stripes on the abdomen and thorax, and have yellow hair on the sides. Traits like these are what give bees and bee flies a similar look. Typical of flies, they have extremely short antenna, two wings, and halteres. Halteres are balancing organs on the base of the wings. Some species have dark patterns on their wings (see above image).
There is not much information found on Villa. What we do know is that this bee fly can be found all over the world, in Europe, North America, and Asia, yet bee flies are best represented along the west coast of the US and in Mexico in arid areas. There are around two hundred and seventy different species around the world, and forty five have been found to reside in North America.
Villa is grouped within Anthracinae, which is one of the two subfamilies of endoparasitoids in the family Bombyliidae. An endoparasitoid is one that lives inside of their host as larvae until ultimately killing it. While looking for a host, females will hover over the nest as they would a flower. Larvae are armed with spines and spikes to help them break through the host. The larvae undergo hypermetamorphosis, in which the first instar will penetrate the host, and the next instar will be sedentary. They can slowly consume their host without making a visible wound. Bombyliids are known to parasitize larvae of Diptera, Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, and Neuroptera.
Bee flies are pollinators of a variety of plants, including those with flowers that have aromas that are unpleasant, lacking pollen or have dull colors. They are also important because of their position in the food web. They consume and are consumed by many different animals.
The oldest Bombyliid fossil dates back to 140 million years ago.
Some females are seen to have a peculiar sand gathering behavior. Some speculate she is filling the pocket where her eggs are to be hatched with sand. Others speculate that she is ovipositing, or laying her eggs.
- Bogusch P, Astapenková A, Heneberg P (2015) Larvae and Nests of Six Aculeate Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera: Aculeata) Nesting in Reed Galls Induced by Lipara spp. (Diptera: Chloropidae) with a Review of Species Recorded. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0130802. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0130802
- Evenhuis N.L., Greathead D.J. (2015) World catalog of bee flies (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Revised September 2015. http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/bombcat/intro-revised.pdf
- Cole FR (1923) Expedition of the California Academy of Sciences to the Gulf of California in 1921. The Bombyliidae (bee flies). http://direct.biostor.org/reference/77976
- Bogusch P, Astapenkova A, Heneberg P (2015) Larvae and Nests of Six Aculeate Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera: Aculeata) Nesting in Reed Galls Induced by Lipara spp. (Diptera: Chloropidae) with a Review of Species Recorded. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0130802&type=printable
- EL-Hawagry MS, Greathead DJ (2017) Review of the genus Villa Lioy (Bombyliidae, Diptera) from Egypt, with descriptions of two new species. http://www.mapress.com/j/zt/article/view/zootaxa.1113.1.2