• A bee and a wasp that are not

    by  • November 15, 2010 • Wildlife

    Do you remember H bees?

    I took photographs of these two, a bee and a wasp,  today.  I was reminded of when I was a child in Orange County, CA, when we used to catch what we called ‘H’ bees in our hands.  After seeing the bees with the Hs on their backs we would know that they would not sting us.

    Eristalis tenax, Drone Fly

    Drone Fly, Eristalis tenax.   Children call them ‘H’ bees.

    Today, I thought I’d look up what kind of bee an H bee was, but was surprised to find no mention of it on Google, other than one person asking if anyone remembered them, saying that they had held them too, long, long ago.

    Is there such a thing?  Answer: Surprisingly, this bee and wasp are actually hover flies or flower flies in the Animal Family Syrphidae.

    Not a bee, a Drone Fly, Eristalis tenax

    Not a bee, a Drone Fly, Eristalis tenax

    This “bee” is a drone fly, Eristalis tenax, sometimes called an “H” bee or “H” fly due to the H pattern at the top front of its abdomen.

    Syrphus, Hover Fly

    Syrphid Hover Fly on a late Autumn Rudbeckia

    This “wasp” is also a hover fly, probably in the genus Syrphus.

    Syrphus Hover Fly

    Syrphid Hover Fly, peering over the top of the flower

    University of California, Davis’ BugGuide web site is a wonderful resource for checking IDs and viewing additional images of these insects here.

    Thanks to Professor Emeritus Robbin Thorp, Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis for the ID.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.