Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Toxomerus marginatus

with 18 comments

Toxomerus marginatus Bee Fly on Prairie Fleabane Daisy 4770

Toxomerus marginatus is the scientific name of this tiny bee fly that you see on the flower head of a prairie fleabane daisy, Erigeron modestus. When I say tiny, I mean tiny, at most a quarter of an inch (6mm).

Today’s double portrait is from February 11 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 23, 2016 at 5:04 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Love your photo; the detail is gorgeous, and so amazing.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    February 23, 2016 at 6:09 AM

  2. The photo makes me feel like the daisy is offering up the fly for our viewing. So sweet!


    February 23, 2016 at 6:41 AM

  3. Nice composition with good color.


    February 23, 2016 at 6:45 AM

    • Speaking of color, how about the unexpected pink tips of the otherwise bright white ray flowers?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2016 at 6:54 AM

  4. It is such a treat to get a close-up view of this little bee, and flower for that matter. Such exquisite detail. I noticed the color, too~delicate pink at the edges of the ray flowers.


    February 23, 2016 at 8:14 AM

    • Surprise: although the little insect looks like a bee, this is an example of mimicry because what you’re seeing is a syrphid fly.

      The buds and rays of some other daisy-type flowers also show an initial purple or pink that soon disappears. I wonder why that is.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2016 at 8:28 AM

      • Yeah, I’ve seen that. Also the reverse, some flowers turn pink as they age.


        February 24, 2016 at 8:39 AM

        • A good example of that here is the rain-lily, which turns from white to pink and even magenta or purple as the flower ages over its life of just a week or so.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 24, 2016 at 9:46 AM

  5. I love Syrphids or hoverflies. Among my favorite yard visitors. I am pretty sure that they are not “beeflies though which are in a different family.

    Steve Gingold

    February 24, 2016 at 4:12 AM

    • I’d thought about the ambiguity of the term “bee fly” but went ahead and used it anyhow because I was dealing with a fly that looked like a bee. I wasn’t sure how restricted the term is to the Bombyliidae or if it can be used more generally. Now that you’ve brought it up and I’ve searched a bit, it does seem to be restricted to the Bombyliidae, so I stand corrected and from now on will stop using it more generally.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2016 at 6:46 AM

  6. Scale is interesting. If you hadn’t told me the size of the bee fly or the type of flower, I would have assumed the insect was much larger. Photography is magical in many ways. It can deceive us, make us smile, laugh, cry and educate us. A beautiful picture, Steve, with two of my favourite things – flowers and insects. 🙂


    February 24, 2016 at 5:11 AM

    • Sometimes I forget to indicate the scale when a picture by itself could be misleading or at least ambiguous. In this case, daisies come in various sizes, some much smaller than the stereotypical ones (if such there be). As for photography, here the insect’s small size wasn’t as much a problem as the fact that it rarely stopped moving, so there wasn’t much time to compose and also get the focus right.

      Your double liking for flowers and insects made me wonder if there’s a way on WordPress to search for two tags or two words simultaneously but I haven’t found one. Although I often photograph insects on flowers, that’s not always the case, so when I clicked on the tag “insect” some of the hits showed an insect on something other than a flower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2016 at 7:03 AM

  7. I wondered about those bright yellow legs, unsure whether they were naturally yellow, or if he’d been gathering pollen. Some other photos showed the species with yellow legs (and other parts) but these are much brighter, and do seem to match the color of the pollen.

    It is hard to believe you can photograph something so small. I saw a tiny bug on a boat a couple of weeks ago that I still haven’t identified. It was a brilliant, metallic blue, with two cute little antennae, but it couldn’t have been a half-inch long: three-eighths probably was closer. I’ll say this — when it took off, it flew like the insect equivalent of a jet plane. That little thing was fast.


    February 24, 2016 at 8:16 PM

    • I’ve seen real bees and other insects covered in pollen, but I can say that’s not the case here. By zooming in on my original photograph, which is much larger than the version posted here, I confirmed that the little fly’s legs were intrinsically yellow. They had only a few grains of pollen on them, and only way down low on the parts that were closest to the disk flowers.

      To photograph something so small takes a macro lens, which I always have with me and use the most often of my lenses. Of course the closer you look at something, the more that thing seems to move. And then there’s actual movement, like what you said about your unknown insect that zoomed off into the wild blue yonder. There are plenty of small subjects that I fail to get a decent picture of.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2016 at 10:12 PM

  8. Outstanding photo!


    February 24, 2016 at 8:57 PM

    • Thanks, Terry. These little syrphid flies are fun, and they’re not usually scared of people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2016 at 10:14 PM

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