Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Agarita gets a visitor

with 36 comments

Click for greater sharpness.

I don’t think we’ve seen this guy (gal?) before—certainly not the individual, but not even this species of hover fly. Last summer I showed a somewhat similar insect on camphorweed, but this one’s huge eyes are redder and the pattern of brown and yellow on its abdomen is different. Both of these species of Syrphid flies are among the many that mimic bees, thereby getting at no extra cost a little added protection from predators that don’t want to tangle with something that might sting them.

This photograph from February 23 gives you a second and closer look at the agarita plant whose flowers appeared in these pages on February 15. And speaking of closer looks, if you click the icon below you’ll get a larger view of this tiny fly’s geodesic-dome eyes.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 29, 2012 at 5:38 AM

36 Responses

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  1. Wow – look at the detail in those eyes. Really nice image 🙂


    February 29, 2012 at 7:05 AM

    • I wanted to be the first to say “the eyes have it,” but Ronald (three comments down) beat me to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 7:36 AM

  2. I think I see Jeff Goldblum or maybe Vincent Price! Either way the photo sends chills up my spine!

    Bonnie Michelle

    February 29, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    • No spine chills needed, Bonnie. These tiny flies are harmless to people—and they’re cute (the flies, that is, and some people).

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 7:38 AM

  3. Steve, Beautiful shot! I love all the different textures!! The eyes, the hairy back, the wonderful shiny texture of the wings – wow 🙂 ~Kyle


    February 29, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    • Thanks, Kyle, for pointing out all the different textures. Photographers do love textures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 7:41 AM

  4. Fascinating!~ The eyes have it!


    February 29, 2012 at 7:17 AM

  5. Really great shot–like the way the wing picks up the light and cast a spectrum of colors, Sally

    Sally W. Donatello

    February 29, 2012 at 7:50 AM

    • Yes, the iridescence of the wings is appealing. Goes with the photographer’s sparkling personality.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 8:50 AM

  6. Like Sally, I’m fond of the wings, too. They look like old-fashioned cellophane. I do wonder about those bright red eyes. While they seem to me to be a bit too obvious, perhaps to some predators they’d seem threatening.

    A casual thought – “What would it mean for photographers to have eyes like that?” – sent me off, and I discovered that fly eyes have influenced the development of a new kind of camera. I never would have known, were it not for your photo!


    February 29, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    • Hey, that’s quite a find you made. Thanks for alerting us to it. I used to do 3-D photography with film, and I’ve been waiting for a good digital system to come along to tempt me back into the world of depth.

      You raise a good point about the fly’s conspicuous red eyes. I wonder if any entomologist has researched the extent to which eyes like that scare potential predators.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 9:06 AM

  7. wow–I mean WOW! You really gave us a mouth opener this time!


    February 29, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    • Thanks, Lance, for the WOW. Your phrase “a mouth opener” reminds me of the Spanish proverb “En boca cerrada no entran moscas,” which we can translate loosely as “If you keep your mouth closed you won’t get flies in it.” But I’m glad you spoke up about this picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 9:10 AM

  8. nice…en theos..jim

    Developing A New Image

    February 29, 2012 at 9:24 AM

  9. This is amazing and I love the color and the clarity of your shots. I have always been fascinated with insects and even kept an insect “zoo” in my classroom every year when I taught. Thanks for this!
    ~ Lynda


    February 29, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    • You’re welcome, Lynda. While I photograph primarily native plants, I often find plenty of small creatures on them. My resulting insect zoo resides on a bunch of hard drives, but the residents come out into this blog from time to time. As for clarity, much of the credit goes to Canon for its 100mm macro lens and EOS 7D camera, with some to my reasonably steady (and often overworked) hands.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 11:36 AM

  10. Spectacular (have I used that one in a while?). And I had to laugh at the thought of clicking for greater sharpness–as, even without that, I have never seen such detail . . . on a hoverfly! And do I take it from your previous response that this was handheld? Guess it had to be, right? Yet another brilliant shot.

    Susan Scheid

    February 29, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    • If I were in business I’d hire you as my publicist, Susan. Yes, like almost all my pictures, this one was handheld. I steady myself against a handy object, and the camera against my forehead, for stability when I can; I also sit or lie on the ground when that’s feasible. Hover flies do hover and move back and forth for a good while before settling on a flower, but once they alight they tend to stay put for a while and aren’t too skittish if I don’t make any sudden movements.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 5:47 PM

  11. Love the details in the wings!


    February 29, 2012 at 8:34 PM

    • The details in the wings have caught several people’s attention. The delight is in the details.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 29, 2012 at 8:53 PM

  12. What a gorgeous capture!


    February 29, 2012 at 11:40 PM

  13. You know, my favorites of yours are ALWAYS with the insects. Beautiful, usually-ignored creatures with a cheery background — your skill brings them into the spotlight where they belong. You and folks at BugGuide should get in cahoots (if you haven’t already).


    March 1, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    • Sounds like you have a real predilection for insects, Shannon. I make sure to include them here from time to time for variety—and because they’re appealing. The folks at BugGuide have identified several insects for me, for which I’m grateful, and the pictures that I sent them are part of their online collection. Still, I think their focus (pun intended) is on identification rather than photographs in their own right. But who knows, if they go into the business of publishing posters or books, I’m ready.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2012 at 10:26 AM

  14. That eye colour could be the new trend for sunglasses. Camouflages sunburt noses…

    I love the iridescent wing too.


    March 1, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    • If you decide to market those red sunglasses I’ll expect a commission for inspiring your new fashion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 1, 2012 at 2:51 PM

  15. Wow, Steve, my jaw just dropped! Wonderful color in that translucent wing! The color is bold and beautiful. Fantastic detail on every part of this specimen. Now, drooling!

    Sheila T Illustrated

    March 3, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    • Thanks so much, Sheila. And to think that this little creature was only about a third of an inch long.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 3, 2012 at 6:02 PM

  16. Simply stunning shot of this bee!


    March 4, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    • It does look a lot like a bee, doesn’t it? This is an effective bit of camouflage, and what appears to be a bee is actually a tiny syrphid fly; if you could see the way it hovers and moves back and forth, you’d have another clue that it’s not really a bee.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 4, 2012 at 4:37 AM

      • Oh, that’s the reason why my father-in-law told me it is a fake bee. 😉


        March 4, 2012 at 4:39 AM

  17. […] fringe of land in northwest Austin that most recently and fruitfully brought you pictures of a hover fly and crossed anemones. I did my best to keep the closer edge of the leaf in focus, and my trusty […]

  18. […] last time you saw a syrphid fly here was about a month ago, in a picture of one with large red eyes on an agarita flower. On March 21, as I was walking along a trail in McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin, I […]

  19. […] Agarita gets a visitor […]

  20. […] fringe of land in northwest Austin that most recently and fruitfully brought you pictures of a hover fly and crossed anemones. I did my best to keep the closer edge of the leaf in focus, and my trusty […]

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