Wordless Wednesday – Salix caprea and the honeybee mimic

Salix caprea - Goat willow, Pussy Willow and Drone Fly

Salix caprea – (Goat willow, Pussy Willow) and Drone Fly

Salix caprea – excellent early source of pollen and nectar for all pollinators. Drone Fly, only one pair of wings, 10-12mm long body, large eyes and inconspicuous antennae. Drinks nectar, visually mimics male honeybees hence common name.

39 thoughts on “Wordless Wednesday – Salix caprea and the honeybee mimic

  1. Bumblebee, honeybee and wasp mimics are all hoverflies and so don’t sting. So how do you tell the difference? Bees and wasp have two pairs of wings and hoverflies appear to have only one (the second pair are reduced to small structures called halteres which are used to maintain balance during flight). Also the bee mimics don’t have pollen baskets on the legs!
    Important pollinators and as an added benefit some species eat aphids.
    These are the good guys, so look carefully before you exterminate a wasp – not that you should be exterminating them either!

    • Thank you for explaining more and for highlighting how valuable these insects are as pollinators. I imagine too they have evolved in tangent with plants and although they do not collect pollen, the pollen transference is via the body hairs. Wasps get a really bad press don’t they, but here they very noticeably pollinate my Autumn fruiting Raspberries.

      • The web of relationships between planst and insects is totally fascinating.As we have no honey bees and very few solitary bees on the islands, most of the pollination is by assorted flies and other small insects. Even further south where there is an abundance of bee species, other insects are important pollinators.

  2. A new one for me, but it will be easy to remember it after the very short antennae.
    Due to a warmer than usual weather, I saw the first bees of the season over the wkend. I started to worry since there is almost nothing in bloom.

    • The really large eyes are a good clue too. I have to rely on many non-natives to provide anything for early bees and other pollinators here as our own natives are slower to flower. Plus our current cooler temperatures must mean less nectar produced. I wonder if any early bees emerging can go back to semi hibernation if its a cold Spring or just suffer the consequences. I hope we have some warmer Spring days in store to enjoy!

      • I was wondering the same about the early bees; maybe they are adapted this way. After all they did some pollen collecting (here from the skunk cabbage) and have few provisions.
        And yes, non-natives are also necessary here, even later in the summer.

  3. Really excellent shot and at quick glance, I thought the flower visitor was a honeybee. Thanks for the reminder of the mimics! They’re important and even more overlooked than bees themselves–if that’s possible.

    • Another blogger https://croftgarden.wordpress.com
      has pointed out how on her north scottish island there are no honey bees and few solitary bees to help with pollination, so flies are the main pollinators there.
      They are an overlooked enormously helpful group of insects and presumably suffering the same issues of habitat loss and man’s chemical use.

    • They do not have the same clean image of Bees, their breeding habitats and rat-tailed maggots offspring are grim but as adult pollinators are they are more aesthetic and helpful.

  4. Our Goat Willow isn’t out yet and the cold has meant we haven’t had many insects as yet either. Your photo is so good, Julie!
    We don’t get any bees on our Fennel when it’s in flower. All the pollination is done by wasps and hoverflies.

    • What an odd weather month we are having so far Clare, its cold here and the forecast is cold till the end of the month. That Goat willow is one survivor from the local farmers fields, he pulled the rest out, but not sure why. Its interesting to realise how much pollination is done by Hover flies and wasps, the latter get a bad press generally. Hope you have a good weekend Clare.

      • Yes, isn’t it cold! We haven’t had any sunshine for a few days either and lots of drizzle too ๐Ÿ˜ฆ We have Goat willow in our garden and I like the flowers but it does spread very fast and we can hardly keep it under control. Which is probably why your farmer got rid of most of it! Hope your weekend is going well too.

      • Our local farmer has a wildflower strip alongside his fields and most of the fields are bounded by Hawthorn or Blackthorn. Both will flower later. No wildflowers yet, except a few Stitchwort in the grassy margins. The one remaining Goat willow was the only plant producing pollen and nectar. He plants mainly oil seed rape, broad beans and wheat. I had read about the Goat willow moth, that can affect other trees. I’ve been dithering over a willow to plant at home and still haven’t decided, his actions made me dither more, but our local Wildlife Trust group is in favour of the tree. Your garden is far larger than mine so maybe thats not the willow for me, I shall research some more. I am back indoors now with a hot drink after trying to sow some more seeds!

      • I don’t think a Goat Willow would be suitable for a smaller garden than ours. I hope you find something suitable. A hot drink is so necessary on a day like today!

  5. I can’t remember seeing one of these, but we sometimes get large numbers of the more yellow/golden hoverfly bee/wasp imitators, and I love them. Some are so beautiful. And they have great curiousity – I’ve had them follow me and hover about as though they wonder if I’m some sort of flower too!

    • That sounds like an at one with nature experience Val. I agree too, some are really beautiful, insects are fascinating and I can happily occupy my time time just observing their behaviour.

  6. That is such a beautiful photo Julie. A perfect capture! I love the color of the Salix and the close up of the fly’s eye! I always learn so much from you and I really appreciate you sharing all your knowledge with us. I never thought of flies as pollinators before, but of course I see all different varieties on flowers and had never thought before about the role that they play.
    Thank you!
    – Kate

    • Thanks so much Kate for your really kind comment, I find the natural world thrilling and the interaction between all creatures and plants compelling. What a fantastic planet we live on! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I’ve read there are a few reasons, to fool predators into thinking they may sting and some mimic species lay their eggs in a bees nest, whose larva may then predate bee eggs, or other mimicked species.

  7. These are truly invaluable trees for our migrant Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) over here in the UK and potentially throughout Europe as well. The feed on either the early nectar they provide or the first few insects which hover over these opening sticky buds.

    Here is a record shot of the bird in question as taken from my naturestimeline Facebook page.

    http://bit.ly/1RfLV9N

    • I have been listening out for a Chiffchaff but haven’t heard one yet, a couple of times a Great Tit’s call nearly fooled me. I had not realised this plant was good for Chiffchaffs thank you for this. I am not on FB, but have just looked at your photo, well done!

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