I get a lot of “what is that?!” questions, and I thought it would be fun to have a series of things that look like bees and wasps, but are not bees or wasps. There are thousands of mimics around, and some of them are pretty good copycats.  Here’s one of the most common mimics: A syrphid fly.

In this lovely photo, you can see two of the common signals that tell you it isn’t a bee or a wasp:

1. There are only two wings! Flies have only one pair of functional wings, unlike bees and wasps.  Bees and Wasps have 4 wings (2 pairs).

If you look closely under the right wing of this fly, you’ll see a little knob sticking out. It’s called a haltere, and a pair of halteres is all that’s left of the second pair of wings.

This is why Flies are in the Order Diptera–“two wings”.

2. The antennae are all wrong for a bee. Flies have antennae that look like a knob with a big hair sticking out of it–you can see that nicely here.  Regular bees–particularly honeybees–tend to have longer antennae that look like an arm with a bent elbow.  Wasp antennae are more variable, but they are much longer than this fly.

Over the next few months, I’ll put up more photos of things that aren’t bees, and tell you some other ways to know the buzzing insect next to you is a faker.

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Hum, makes me remember a European syrphid that’s a really good mimick of the European hornet when in flight… Even I get tricked.

  2. Thanks for the info!

  3. I will make note of this. :)

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