I am a birder, but I have got used to looking for signs of spring other than the arrival of warblers and hirundines, Wheatears and Garganey, Sandwich Terns and Ring Ousels. On Sunday morning, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps were adding their songs to those of many Chiffchaffs at my local patch of Stanwick Lakes. I can just about recognise a few butterflies and even some of the commoner spring plants. But I have become quite adept at spotting another sign of spring – flying noses.
I first noticed flying noses several years ago and now I set aside some time to look of them in my garden on sunny days in early April. I saw several on Sunday morning. I bet you might see some too if you keep your eyes open.
Flying noses are my name for the large bee fly, Bombylius major. They look like smallish bumblebees at first glance because they are brown and hairy, but they also look like hoverflies, because they can hold themselves still in the air. But they are neither – they are bee flies.
These bee mimics use their long proboscises to feed on the nectar of primroses (I can identify them too!) and other early spring plants. Their larvae feed on the grubs of solitary bees and wasps.
Since they are widespread in Europe, North America and parts of Asia in spring, including early spring, have a look out for them and I bet you’ll see them soon. Let me know if you do.