As I was sitting on my back porch the other day, a large flying insect landed on the chair next to me. I had never seen one like this one- brightly colored in stripes of yellow, black and brown. It reminded me of a hornet or some kind of yellow jacket. I thought to myself that this one could probably cause a deeply painful sting.
Of course, I had to know what kind of insect I was dealing with here. Come to find out, it's neither a hornet or a yellow jacket. Rather, it's a fly. That's right- a fly, a flower fly in the family Syrphidae. This particular species is known as Milesia virginiensis. In American folklore and superstition, it's called the “News Bee"- for it will sometimes hover in front of a person, as if it were “giving them the news.” It can be easily mistaken for a European hornet or queen yellowjacket.
I found an interesting and informative blog post about this hover fly at Bug Eric's site. I was relieved to find out that this colorful insect is basically harmless to humans.
One more tidbit of info: Milesia virginiensis' image was used on the 33 cent US postage stamp in 1999.