Roark: News bees

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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If you’re outside much at all, you will likely have a yellow and black bee-like critter fly up to you and hover in midair, staring at you. Growing up, I was told they were news bees and were trying to tell me something. Another name for them is hover fly, highlighting their amazing ability to hover perfectly still like a hummingbird or helicopter.

I’ve seen two different kinds of news bees: a small, skinny one that flies silently and a bigger one that resembles a yellow jacket. Both belong to a group of insects called “flower flies”. They are not bees and so cannot sting, something I wish I could convince my grandkids of. But alas, they still freak out, thinking the harmless little creatures are yellow jackets, which they mimic for protection. If you ever see one sitting still you will note that they have only two wings instead of the four that all bees, yellow jackets, etc. have. There are over 900 species of flower flies, and most of them have yellow/black markings. As their name suggests, flower flies feed on flower nectar as adults, while the larvae feed on aphids, making them beneficial for pollination and pest control

The reason they are attracted to us is for the minerals on our skin from sweat. If you let them land on you, you can watch them walk around dabbing their sponge-like mouth part on your skin while their abdomen twitches up and down. Again, they are flies and have no ability to sting. The smaller news bee mostly does this behavior that frequents our area.

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According to mountain folklore, news bees are an omen. If the bee hovering near you is mostly yellow, it means good luck, especially if you can get one to light on your finger. If the bee is mostly black, and it flies into a window and back out again, it means bad luck, perhaps even death. If a news bee is buzzing close to your ear, it is a sign that important news is coming your way. My mom said that as kids they would talk to the bees while they hovered close by.