Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘fly

Ageratina havanensis does its thing

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A great floral attractor of insects in the fall is Ageratina havanensis, known as fragrant mist flower, shrubby boneset, and thoroughwort, and apparently in Spanish as the barba de viejo (old man’s beard) that corresponds to the fuzzier stage the inflorescence takes on after it goes to seed.

Click to enlarge.

The insect shown above working these flowers in my neighborhood on November 2nd is a syrphid fly, which you can see gains some protection by mimicking a bee. The stray seeds with silk attached came from the adjacent poverty weed bush that graciously put in an appearance here a couple of weeks ago. Below you’ll find a much larger and more colorful insect that was visiting the flowers, a queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2018 at 4:56 AM

A tiny fly on narrowleaf penstemon flowers

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It was late in the afternoon on May 28th and the wind had picked up at the top of Scott’s Bluff National Monument in western Nebraska. Concentrating on the tiny fly that became my subject once I noticed it, I had to let most of the flowers fade out of focus in order for the fly to stay sharp. The flowers are Penstemon angustifolius, called narrowleaf penstemon or narrowleaf beardtongue. Call the photographer Nimbletongue Beardface and you might not be far wrong.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 2, 2017 at 5:00 AM

To bee or not to bee…

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male-copestylum-tamaulipanum-syrphid-fly-on-snow-on-the-mountain-7173

When is a bee not a bee? When it’s a fly masquerading as a bee and presumably gaining protection against predators that would fear the sting of a real bee. Thanks to Bill Dean, via BugGuide.net, for identifying this syrphid fly as a male Copestylum tamaulipanum. Today’s picture, which is from August 30 along US 183 in Cedar Park, also gives you a pleasant glance back at the flowers of Euphorbia marginata, called snow-on-the-mountain because of its white-margined bracts. For a zoomed-in look at the syrphid fly, click the excerpt below.

male-copestylum-tamaulipanum-syrphid-fly-on-snow-on-the-mountain-7173a

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2016 at 5:00 AM

Brown on yellow, what a fellow

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Fly on Navajo Tea Flower Head 0470

On a Navajo tea flower head (Thelesperma simplicifolium) I found this fly, which didn’t mind the close presence of my macro lens and stayed put while I took pictures. From the people at BugGuide.net I learned that this is a kind of syrphid fly, Copestylum avidum, and that the way the eyes touch at the top of the head signals that this one is a male. For a closeup of the insect’s compound eye, click the excerpt below.

Fly on Navajo Tea Flower Head 0470A

The date was April 8 and the place was the Doeskin Ranch section of the National Wildlife Refuge in Burnet County.

Update: BugGuide has also identified the nymph you saw three days ago as being a katydid in the subfamily Phaneropterinae:

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 24, 2016 at 5:19 AM

Toxomerus marginatus

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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

Freeloading

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Dark Fly, Dead Bee, Dead Spider on Tatalencho 8237

When I was happily photographing tatalencho (Gymnosperma glutinosum) at Wild Basin on October 27th I came across this little drama that I had trouble understanding. Most conspicuous was the dead bee whose head-down posture on the flower stalk made it look like an airplane that had nose-dived into a crash-landing. We have to assume the bee had met its demise thanks to the spider that now too was upside down and immobile, and that I took to be dead as well. Standing on the bee’s upraised rump was by far the tiniest of the creatures in this arthropodal ménage à trois, a dark insect that appeared to be biting or sucking the tip of one of the spider’s upraised legs.

I e-mailed for help, which came quickly. From entomologist Alex Wild at the University of Texas I learned that the dark little insect is “a freeloader fly (probably Milichiidae or Chloropidae, hard to tell from the photo), taking advantage of the spider’s kill. As Joe [Lapp] said, this is a fairly common phenomenon, but since the flies are so small it is often overlooked.”

I also heard back from local expert Val Bugh: “The spider is not dead, it’s busy eating and crab spiders prefer to remain still, especially when their prey blocks them from view. The black fly, commonly called a freeloader fly (family Milichiidae) is actually just standing on the bee’s butt — it only looks like its face is touching the spider’s leg because of the angle. Really, the mouth of the fly goes down and it is probably waiting to scavenge some droplets while the spider feeds (or it is wondering whether or not it needs to leave because there is a big, scary camera pointing at it). Usually, spiders and other predators just ignore these little flies, which might walk all over both the predator and its victim.”

Joe Lapp added some more: “I think I’ve only ever seen this once on the prey of a spider other than a crab spider. I think crab spiders are preferential because they don’t masticate their prey like most do. Instead, they inject digestive fluids into holes and slurp out the yummy insides. That leaves opportunity for flies to go to town unharmed. I wonder if the venom or enzymes also assist the flies. In my mind, the wild thing is that these flies show up before the prey begins decaying.”

So there you have the explanation for this curious sight.

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I’m away for a few days. You’re welcome to leave comments, but it may take me a while to answer.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2015 at 5:06 AM

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