Mimicking a Bee Mimic

2010 November 16

On October 31, we suddenly noticed what looked like a very large bumblebee buzzing around the house[1].

It certainly acted like a bee, it was strongly attracted to sweets in any case. Once it settled down[2], we could get a better look at it and determined that it was a young female[3]. But, it was not in fact a bee, but instead some other species mimicking a bee.

A key giveaway: note the number of wings. She only has one pair of wings! [4]

Now, normally, a single pair of wings would mean that this was one of the flies (Diptera), but after careful consideration we came to the surprising conclusion that, in fact, this was not even an insect! As near as we can figure out, she is actually a mammal nymph, mimicking a fly mimicking a bee!

The mimicry was astoundingly effective, for all that. Everyone was fooled that night into thinking that this was a very large bumblebee, and surrendered copious amounts of sugar[5] to her to feed her insatiable hunger.

[1] The suit had actually belonged to Sam, but she’s been too big to wear it for a couple of years now, so now it’s Rosie’s turn.

[2] That big pumpkin that Rosie is sitting on came from Somero Pumpkin Farm. They have a corn maze there that we took the girls to a few times, and they had a drawing for a Giant Pumpkin, which Sam won. She took it in to school, where it was put on display for a few days before Halloween, and then we brought it home, carved it, put it out for passers-by to marvel at, and ultimately rolled it out back to feed to the deer.

[3] Young for a mammal nymph, that is; 2.5 years old is pretty elderly for most insects.

[4] Luckily, my daughters are still too young to roll their eyes and say, “Oh, Daddy, you’re such a nerd!” And Sandy is polite enough to either not say it, or say it in a affectionate way.

[5] We just went down the two miles of road that we live on, hitting maybe ten houses. It’s a good way to meet some of the neighbors. Plus, the rural houses don’t get anywhere near as many trick-or-treaters as the people in town do[5], so they are happy to see the kids and have a very liberal hand with the candy. Good candy, too – full-sized chocolate bars, or handfuls of the larger Tootsie Pops. Once you get into town, each house might get hit up fifty times or more, so the people in them are mostly handing out stuff like mini-tootsie-rolls and have a kind of harried air about them.

[6] We are practically at the end of the inhabited part of our road, and very few trick-or-treaters get as far as us. Most years, we only get one family stopping by our house, and I think the only reason they get this far is because their grandparents live next door to us.

5 Responses
  1. November 16, 2010

    I think it’s the time of year. We also noticed a lot of mimics around our house too.


  2. Carole permalink
    November 16, 2010


  3. November 17, 2010

    LOL! Lovely post, Tim.

  4. November 18, 2010

    Yes, this was kind of a spur-of-the-moment post: I’d happened to take the pictures of her with the Bug Camera, and while downloading the last couple of weeks’ pictures she was just too cute to pass up.

  5. November 20, 2010

    This photo should be next to the entry for “cute as a bug” in a dictionary of American idioms!

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