Is it a bee? Is it a fly? Bombylius major causes confusion, and even alarm, when it’s spotted in gardens at this time of year. Its furry brown body and the way it hovers with a high-pitched whine fools would-be predators – and many people – into thinking it belongs to the Apidae (bee) family, but the single pair of dark-edged wings identify it as a true fly (bees have two pairs).
And that long ‘stinger’ at the front of its body is the insect’s proboscis, used for drinking nectar from low-growing spring flowers such as primroses: it may look vicious but it is perfectly harmless.