Sweat flies, Russian hornets, sand hornets, and Japanese hornets are some of their common nicknames. Warm weather’s here, and that means they’re starting to come back. In both Appalachian and Ozarks folklore, news bees appear as omens to those wise enough to read them.
They have the peculiar habit of just hanging motionless in the air watching people as they do things. There are yellow news bees, which mean that good things are in the offing– it’s good luck if you can get one to perch on your finger–and black news bees, which warn of imminent death. The black news bees fly in the windows and out again, and fly straight for the nearest cemetery; they hover making a sound like a human being talking.
Those of scientific bent probably want to know that flower flies, many of which are called “hover flies,” belong to the family Syrphidae in the order Diptera (true flies). The most commonly seen species of flower flies are brightly colored, bee-like flies with yellow and black markings. Although flower flies resemble bees, they can be distinguished by their wings: flower flies (like all flies) have only 2 wings. Bees have 4 wings.
The many species of hover flies in Appalachia are found in weedy habitats and gardens. Flower flies are often called “sweat bees” because of their resemblance to bees and because they often land on human skin to gather sweat. Flower flies cannot sting, but there are small black bees in the family Halictidae (also commonly called sweat bees) that will occasionally sting humans while they are gathering sweat.