Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for August 19th, 2012

A tiny bee fly

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Click for greater size and clarity.

One month ago today, on the morning of July 18, as I was finishing up a couple of hours of taking pictures in Great Hills Park and was almost back at my car, I noticed a small spiderweb in an axil of a broomweed plant, Amphiachyris dracunculoides, that had begun putting out some flowers. (July is a bit early for this plant to flower, but I’ve seen it happen before, and 2012 has been an accelerated year for many species.) Although my initial attention went to the spider, eventually I noticed a bit of movement near one of the broomweed flower heads and was pleased to find this tiny fly, probably not even 3/16 of an inch long, keeping busy gathering nectar. Notice how its proboscis is inserted into one of the disk flowers that’s just beginning to open.

Entomologist classify this type of insect in the Bombyliidae, or bee flies, and this particular one is in the genus Poecilognathus. I can’t be certain about the species, but it might be Poecilognathus unimaculatus. These minuscule flies are actually quite common in Austin, but their size prevents most people from becoming familiar with them. Without a macro lens, I doubt I’d ever have known what I was seeing.

In order to stop down my lens for greater depth of field, I turned on the camera’s flash; that accounts for the black background, even though I took the picture in daylight.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2012 at 6:16 AM

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