News bee been by?

Posted by | April 15, 2010

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.

sweat fliesThose 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.


news+bees hover+flies flower+flies appalachian+folklore appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

9 Responses

  • Jen Burleson says:

    Thank you for the information about news bees. My son was asking to study them saying that his Papa told him that they bring good news. Doubtingly, I googled them. Shame on me for doubting. So we read the folklore and I learned to not doubt. My sweet boy will be so much smarter for listening to his Papa, myself, and the stories to back it up. Thanks again.

  • Dave Tabler says:

    The joy of Google! Imagine how much folklore was lost before we had the internet to document all this stuff. Thanks for sharing your story, Jen.

  • Diane Douglas says:

    I looked this up after having a black news bee visit today. I remembered my Grandmother in East Texas saying she saw one the day her husband was killed in an oil field accident, but I didn’t really know if they existed.

  • Walter Fedrick says:

    Wow! this is weird. The only reason I looked this up is because I had a good news bee swarm my head yesterday and a black news bee land on my face today. Wonder what that means?

  • Kyle Mealy says:

    We also call them tell-ya-bout-its

  • Elaine Leger says:

    We have had a good news bee around my house for days… still waiting for our good news!

  • Tom Riddle Sr says:

    Just had a GOOD NEWS BEE come in my garage. I remember as a kid, when my mom would talk about them. How your NOT to kill them for they come to bring you GOOD NEWS. It just brought back a lot of child hood memories.

  • Andrea Bieber says:

    At the pond today, I heard my 6 year old command,” Good news bee, sit down!”. Taking me back to my girlhood, I asked him where he’d heard that and he replied, “Papa told me that when I see this bee.”. I teared up because I’d forgotten this and hadn’t heard it for years…but my Father has been teaching my sons since their birth to carry on the tradition of our ways.

  • Mary says:

    I’ve had 2 visit me daily now for 3 weeks.. When the weather is warm enough.. They’ll come in the house.. One will land on my finger.. My husband passed 3 weeks ago..wonder what good news he brings

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