Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


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Mallophora fautrix Robber Fly on Stalk 0804

Beards: one on the photographer, another on this robber fly, and not all that different in color. The robber fly (also known as a bee killer) is Mallophora fautrix, and the tendril is that of a mustang grape vine, Vitis mustangensis.

This picture is from the Riata Trace Pond in northwest Austin on July 30.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 18, 2014 at 5:51 AM

70 Responses

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  1. That is quite a hairy fellow!

    Midwestern Plant Girl

    August 18, 2014 at 6:11 AM

  2. I hope that the resemblance stops at the beards.


    August 18, 2014 at 6:14 AM

  3. This is so detailed…really fascinating!


    August 18, 2014 at 6:18 AM

  4. Wonderfully detailed shot. One of my friends thinks robber flies look like members of ZZ Top.

    Mike Powell

    August 18, 2014 at 6:34 AM

    • I’m not familiar with ZZ Top, but I hope your friend’s comparison isn’t unfair to robber flies.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 7:00 AM

      • Here’s a link to some photos of ZZ Top (http://www.mtv.com/artists/zz-top/photos/), a Texas rock group that was really popular in the 1980’s. Two of the band members had really long beards and almost always had on large pairs of sunglasses. I think your robber fly would have enjoyed the comparison–it has the look of a country rock fan.

        Mike Powell

        August 18, 2014 at 7:12 AM

        • I see what you mean, Mike.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 18, 2014 at 7:17 AM

        • Perfect comparison! and ZZ Top’s still rocking. They’re touring now, and are going to be back in Houston September 12. I saw them about five years ago at the House of Blues and the show was terrific.


          August 18, 2014 at 9:52 PM

          • I’d heard of the group but knew nothing about it till now, not even that it’s from Texas.

            Steve Schwartzman

            August 19, 2014 at 7:14 AM

  5. That’s some fly. Can they really kill bees???


    August 18, 2014 at 7:04 AM

  6. Love the composition on this


    August 18, 2014 at 7:23 AM

    • I’ve found that things that happen to lie along a diagonal often add dynamism to a picture. The tendril coming in from the left was a bonus, and it provided an extra bit of hair.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 7:30 AM

  7. Love the fly and the composition!

    Nan Hampton

    August 18, 2014 at 7:45 AM

    • You’ve suddenly reminded me of Banquo’s line in Macbeth: “Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 7:54 AM

  8. Nice shot, Steven; the detail is excellent, and the light spot-on.


    August 18, 2014 at 7:51 AM

    • The lighting was natural, Mike, just the sunlight that illuminated the scene that morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 7:57 AM

      • Yes I realised that, Steve; it’s the natural light that makes the image so appealing.


        August 18, 2014 at 9:03 AM

        • You’re right about natural light, Mike. I avoid flash most of the time, though sometimes I can’t help it, and I imagine you’ve run into situations where there otherwise wouldn’t be enough light.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 18, 2014 at 3:59 PM

          • I use flash a lot, Steve. I think it is true to say that I would be lost without my camera’s flip-up flash.


            August 19, 2014 at 6:02 AM

            • And that’s what I miss in my Canon 5D Mark III. Its lack of a built-in flash means I have to carry an external flash with me and add weight to my already heavy camera bag. If Nikon can squeeze a flash into its high-end cameras, I don’t understand why Canon refuses to do the same.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 19, 2014 at 7:17 AM

              • Some dubious marketing plan I expect, Steve.


                August 19, 2014 at 7:20 AM

                • I’m sorry to say you’re probably right. On the other hand, one advantage to the external flash I’m now lugging around is that it’s more powerful than the flash that’s built in to my EOS 7D.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 19, 2014 at 7:24 AM

                • I have a Sigma ring flash, but I prefer the lightweight setup of my 500D and macro lens. I find the ring flash too bulky. I am using my 7D here in Vermont.


                  August 19, 2014 at 7:35 AM

                • I have a ring flash too, but I carry it with me only when I anticipate a subject where it will be useful, like the frostweed ice I’ve set out to document each fall for the past three years.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 19, 2014 at 7:40 AM

  9. Marvelous close up…


    August 18, 2014 at 8:57 AM

  10. Wow – amazing shot.


    August 18, 2014 at 10:00 AM

  11. Amazing details! Love all the fuzzzzzz and the “no shaving” attitude! Great portrait!


    August 18, 2014 at 10:01 AM

  12. On a quick glance I thought this was another of your spider photos, but apparently not. A curious looking insect – a unicorn fly carrying spears 😉


    August 18, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    • You’ve made me wonder what would happen if this robber fly and a spider of similar size encountered each other.

      I hadn’t paid attention to the “unicorn” but I’m glad you pointed it out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 3:57 PM

  13. Fabulous shot!


    August 18, 2014 at 11:01 AM

  14. I’ve never seen anything quite like this! Quite a character.


    August 18, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    • You’ve echoed my sentiments. I’d seen other types of robber flies, but I think this was my first encounter with this species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 4:00 PM

  15. I’ve photographed a couple of robbers, but this is by far the coolest of them all. Very nice, Steve. Yes, the tendril does add another neat dimension to the composition..
    I agree with Mike….it seems to be wearing a pair of “Cheap Sunglasses”.

    Steve Gingold

    August 18, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    • Yes, it was the fuzziest robber fly I’d ever seen, and therefore the most interesting to photograph. Thanks for appreciating that tendril, which adds even a bit more hairiness.

      I photographed a spider once that really did seem to be wearing a pair of sunglasses.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 4:03 PM

  16. Great macro…it looks like a spider that can fly.

    Geert de Brabander

    August 18, 2014 at 11:49 AM

  17. Nice depth for such proximity. Tell me once more … maco alone … + tube(s) … + diopter(s) … + lots of crop? D

    Pairodox Farm

    August 18, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    • I’ve been using a 12mm extension tube for the last few months to get a little closer. And yes, I did crop in some, especially for this blog version of the picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 4:07 PM

  18. I’ve seen a few of these in the north woods of Minnesota, and they are really amazing predators. They take down dragonflies several times their size. Makes me glad I’m not a flying insect!


    August 18, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    • From what you say about dragonflies several times their size, these robber flies really are fearsome predators. And no, if I were a flying insect, I wouldn’t want to meet up with one of those.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2014 at 9:01 PM

      • They are the quite possibly the arthropod equivalent of the fiercest predator in the cephalopod world, the giant and colossal squid. But don’t get me started…


        August 19, 2014 at 6:01 PM

  19. Truly amazing photography…A little bit scary up close isn’t he.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    August 18, 2014 at 9:36 PM

  20. WOW!!!! Photography does not get any better than this. I am envious of this picture.


    August 18, 2014 at 9:37 PM

    • I appreciate your appreciation, Chris. I take more pictures with my macro lens than with any other, and a fly like this is one of the reasons I use that lens so much.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2014 at 7:02 AM

      • You must have the patience of a saint to move slowwwwwllllyyyy enough to get that close.


        August 21, 2014 at 9:27 PM

        • I’m not sure how good a stalker I am, and certainly no saint, but fortunately this robber fly wasn’t as skittish as many others (the ones that got away).

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 21, 2014 at 10:12 PM

  21. I’ve never seen an insect that looks so muscular. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen feet like that – divided. I can almost hear it saying, with an evil chuckle, “The better to grip you with, my dear…” I think this is the most fearsome looking insect you’ve offered us. Never mind the spiders and such. I wouldn’t want to meet this one in a dark woodland.


    August 18, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    • You’re probably right about those feet providing the grip that this predator uses to hold its hapless prey—shades of the big bad wolf. As you say, this may well be the most fearsome insect I’ve offered, and it’s drawn lots of attention for that (and its hairiness). At the same time, I wouldn’t want to be small and meet up with the largest of the spiders that have also appeared here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2014 at 7:10 AM

  22. he is so hairy


    August 18, 2014 at 10:37 PM

  23. Now that’s really cool!


    August 18, 2014 at 11:00 PM

    • Quite a fellow, definitely. I hope you get to photograph a robber fly one of these days if you haven’t already had the chance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2014 at 7:12 AM

  24. Such a wonderful shot…. He really is beautiful! Such a great perspective.


    August 19, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    • And fortunately the robber fly stayed put long enough for me to get close and take its picture. Usually robber flies are more skittish, I’ve found.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2014 at 1:56 PM

  25. Whoa. The fly version of an old-school Hell’s Angel. I’m mighty glad he’s relatively small (compared to me) in real life, and hope that never changes in any of my dreams. 😉 Cool entomology yet again!


    August 19, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    • Better to have entomology (or even etymology) strike again rather than this robber fly. Your Hell’s Angel metaphor is a first for this blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2014 at 4:21 PM

  26. […] took this photograph about 11 minutes before the one of the bearded robber fly you recently […]

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