Meet Bombylius major, the greater bee fly (thanks, Bev!). Not only does it look superficially like a bee, but its larvae are parasitic on the larvae of certain solitary bees. The adults turn vegetarian, and imitate bees in feeding on nectar. The flowers, one supposes, are equally tickled to be pollinated by fly or by bee. But insect predators presumably prefer their flies not to look like bees, hence the mimicry.
Ordinarily these are fast-darting insects, but 45-degree temperatures on Wednesday morning made this one sluggish. Somewhere it must be finding nectar, though — perhaps in the maples? And just a day or two of warm weather will bring the shadbush out.
I remember the last warm day we had, over a week ago now: by late afternoon, the woods were buzzing, mostly with calliphoridae. That’s one of the great novelties of early spring, that one can actually feel warm and brotherly toward blow flies. A rare religious impulse even had me effusing from scripture —
Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings.
He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies…
–which, taken out of context, actually sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
The blow flies’ metallic black or blue bodies made a pleasing contrast with the light-brown forest litter as they blundered about in search of something darker and smellier. The most successful in this search will likely have the easiest time eluding predation, given how they stand out against leaves or grass, and thus — one supposes — evolution favors dung- or carrion-colored blow flies the same way it favors bee mimics. There are a lot of hungry birds this time of year.
If there is a God, my friends, this is how she works, in never-ending Creation. The methods may seem random or cruel to our limited way of seeing, but “it is finished in beauty,” as the Navajo Night Chant puts it. In beauty, in harmony, in balance: all three have been offered as translations of the Navajo hozho, which expresses, I gather, the central moral and aesthetic value of a people whose own Creation story begins with the Air-Spirit People, whom we call insects.