How do I tell a bee from a fly?

If you feel unable to identify the major groups that I have outlined in the following section, just recording whether the visitor is a bee or a fly is very helpful. Please study the following diagram to differentiate between bees and flies.

Printable guide to bees vs. flies


Some general guidelines (there are exceptions!)

Wings

Bees have four (two sets)

Bumblebee – Bombus sp.

Flies have two (one set)

Bee fly – Bombylius sp.

At rest, bees’ wings are folded into their bodies

Andrena erigeniae on Claytonia virginica

Flies’ wings are out, or at an angle to their bodies


Eyes

Bees’ eyes are more on the side of their head

Andrena erigeniae on Claytonia virginica

Flies’ eyes are more in front

Syrphid fly

Pollen

Bees (the females) collect and carry loads of pollen

Andrena erigeniae on Claytonia virginica

Flies have only dustings of pollen on their bodies.