News Bees By Steve Roark TN Dept. Agriculture, Forestry Division

I’m sure you’ve been outside and a yellow and black bee-like critter flies up to your head and just hovers in midair, staring at you.  Growing up I was told they were “news bees” and they were trying to tell me something.  Another name for news bees is hover fly, and as the name suggests these creatures have an amazing ability to hover perfectly still like a hummingbird or helicopter


I’ve seen 2 different kinds of news bees, one that looks sort of like a yellow jacket only bigger, and the other is much smaller with a skinny body.  Both have yellow and black markings and both belong to a group of insects called “flower flies”.  They are not bees and so cannot sting, but they do mimic their appearance for protection.  If you ever see one sitting still you will note that they have only 2 wings instead of the 4 that all bees, yellow jackets, etc. have.  There are over 900 species of flower flies, and most of them have the yellow/ black markings.  As their name suggests, flower flies feed on flower nectar as adults, while the larvae feed on dead plant material.  Some are beneficial by preying on destructive aphids.


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.


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