Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A yellow world

with 25 comments

Poecilognathus Fly on Maximilian Sunflower 5374 Detail

So there I was at the Elisabet Ney Museum on August 28th photographing Maximilian sunflowers, Helianthus maximiliani, when I caught sight of an old friend of mine, a tan fly in the genus Poecilognathus that’s only about a quarter of an inch (6mm) long. The nectar in the sunflower’s disk flowers* had attracted it, but I outdid the tiny fly by being attracted to it as well as to the flowers*.


* If you’d like a reminder of why the word flowers is in the plural here, you can have one.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 14, 2014 at 5:33 AM

25 Responses

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  1. It has a slight look of apprehension, as if it has been caught in the act of imbibing illicit nectar, maybe?


    September 14, 2014 at 5:49 AM

  2. I like how it is standing on the tops of those few unopened flowers. It’s not a very sturdy looking fly, kind of spindly.

    Jim in IA

    September 14, 2014 at 6:45 AM

    • You’re reminded me of the plea that commonly used to appear on documents: do not fold, spindle, or mutilate. I’m afraid it’s the fate of many creatures in nature to get spindled and mutilated by larger or fiercer creatures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2014 at 7:10 AM

      • Hence the big eyes and quick aversion moves. Those wings will move that little body very fast.

        Jim in IA

        September 14, 2014 at 7:23 AM

        • You make a good point about the relatively large eyes. I’ve noticed that flies of this type often hover a long time before landing, and that behavior has puzzled me, but perhaps the flies are checking out plants and trying to ensure that no predators are waiting there for them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 14, 2014 at 7:35 AM

          • Seems like a good behavior. I didn’t use the word ‘idea’. I doubt if flies have many.

            Jim in IA

            September 14, 2014 at 7:50 AM

  3. This image is a perfect example of how much we do not see with the naked eye. Macro enables us to investigate the unnoticed and unseen.


    September 14, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    • This possessor of two naked eyes says aye aye, Sally. As you point out, a macro lens lets us see so many details we’d otherwise miss, and that’s why it’s the lens I use most often in nature photography.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2014 at 8:05 AM

  4. In the snake world, red and yellow may kill a fellow, but this yellow on yellow’s a delightful fellow. I see you’ve called him “tan,” but he certainly looks as yellow as the flower. Is part of that color reflected with the light, or is this one of the best examples of camouflage I’ve seen?


    September 14, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    • I like your updated version: yellow on yellow’s a delightful fellow. Parts of the fly look tan to me, and other parts yellow (the stripes on the head and behind it), but you’re correct that the saturated ray flowers reflected so much light that everything in the scope of the photograph got tinged yellow. That led me to change the post’s original title to the current one. I don’t know if this species spends a lot of time on flowers that would help camouflage it, but I’ve photographed this type of fly on two other kinds of yellow-rayed composites.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2014 at 9:34 AM

  5. Perfectly camouflaged little fellow, got to love it especially those eyes! He has the looks of a funny clown all in yellow! Perfect close up shot!


    September 14, 2014 at 10:44 AM

    • Your comment reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood: “Grandmother, what big eyes you have!” “All the better to see with, my child.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 14, 2014 at 10:54 AM

  6. Stunning. 😀

    Raewyn's Photos

    September 14, 2014 at 3:52 PM

  7. That looks like a figment of someone’s imagination, possibly a character resulting from an early Frank Oz workshop. What a fascinating proboscis!


    September 14, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    • Yes, that curved proboscis intrigues me too.

      I’m afraid I was familiar with the Wizard of Oz but not with Frank, whom I had to look up. He’s still alive, so it’s not too late for him to be inspired by a Poecilognathus fly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 15, 2014 at 6:36 AM

  8. Nifty shot, Steve. That little fly gives the image such a nice additional tale.

    Steve Gingold

    September 16, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    • Nifty’s a good word, Steve, and these little flies are so photogenic (at least with a macro lens). I’m glad I was there to have told the tale.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 16, 2014 at 7:12 AM

  9. That little fellow looks either stern or shifty with its slanting ‘brow’.

    The World Is My Cuttlefish

    September 17, 2014 at 1:30 AM

    • If I had a streamlined “brow” like that, I’d fly too. I can be stern at times, but I hope not shifty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 17, 2014 at 7:46 AM

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