Any walk through the garden is sure to include the sight and sound of bumblebees making their rounds as they busily buzz from flower to flower, pollinating as they go. The bumblebee above (Bombus sp.) is visiting a bloom of a false indigo hybrid, Baptisia ‘Decadence Dutch Chocolate’.
Recently, I noticed a bumblebee settled on a hosta leaf, apparently munching on a rose chafer (Macrodactylus subspinosus). Hmmm. Something wrong there. Not a flower in sight! What gives?
This bumblebee isn’t a bumblebee at all. It’s a robber fly, a swift predator and member of the genus Laphria, which includes amazing bumblebee mimics. There are at least 63 Laphria species in North America. The bee disguise at once protects them from predators while aiding in their own predatory tactics by disguising them as flower visitors. Laphria prey on other flying insects, often ones as big or bigger than themselves. Victims are injected with a paralyzing neurotoxin and digestive enzymes that allow the robber fly to suck out the prey’s liquified insides. Ooooooo. Here’s my not-a-bumblebee robber fly, below.