Readers’ wildlife photos

June 23, 2023 • 8:15 am

Good old Mark Sturtevant (he’s not that old) has come through with a batch of photos for us, mainly FLIES (my and Matthew’s favorite insect). Mark’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.  If you have spare time this weekend, you might think of gathering some good wildlife photos and sending them in.  Thanks!

Here are insects from last summer. The theme is flies.

First up is a gold-backed snipe fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus). Most don’t let one approach too closely, but this one did.

Next is a predatory robber fly (Laphria flavicollis). This one was frequently flying out from its perch to chase a passing insect before returning empty-handed to its spot. From its perch it would rapidly swivel its head around to look for something else to go after (it’s pretty weird when they do that).

It is always good to keep an eye on this kind of action, and sure enough it soon dashed off and returned with a click beetle.

Next is this lovely tiger bee flyXenox tigrinus, that was sitting on our house. Tiger bee flies are the largest member of the bee fly family, and they are parasites of large carpenter bees. There was a carpenter bee hole on the shed nearby (the bees are destructive that way), and it had a weird pupa case sticking out of the entrance. Since this big fly was not inclined to fly off, it seems suspicious that it had only recently emerged from the hole.

I was keeping a bucket of foul water in the back yard to harvest mosquito larvae from it to attempt photography of mosquito larvae. Here is an early effort, photographed through the glass of a pancake aquarium that I had made from a couple glass picture frames. I don’t know the species.

The bucket of water had an interesting visitor one day in the form of this bee-mimicking Syrphid fly (Mallota posticata), and this prompts a wider story. Members of the large family of Syrphid flies, a.k.a. sweat bees, hoverflies, and drone flies, have larvae that grow up in a wide range of circumstances. The more familiar examples are the larvae that live as predators on aphids, as shown here. Others are strange limpet-like larvae that live in ant colonies. But the one hanging out at the bucket would be interested in raising its young in the nasty water bucket. The larvae of this species will grow up to be squirming horrors known as rat-tailed maggots, as shown here.  I would love to photograph a handful of those!

13 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. My first thought on reading that FLIES were today’s theme was “Meh, I don’t care much about flies.” I should have known better—as usual for a Mark Sturtevant set, the pictures are beautiful and informative. One takeaway, new to me, is that some flies have very interesting-looking feet. Does that syrphid stand on the surface of the water?

    1. Thank you.
      The feet look similar to those of other flies, although the two pads are maybe a bit large by proportion. They will have a high density of fine hairs on the underside, and for flies that I know that will create a strong sticky effect for walking on smooth surfaces. Assuming this applies to these flies, I suspect that would not be good for walking on water.

  2. Very cool.

    Not many people purposely leave stagnant water around for the purpose of attracting mosquito larvae. There’s a hobby for everyone. 🙂 Mine, when we lived in rural Virginia, was being an attractant for Deer Flies. I was stabbed countless times by those nasty buggers.

    1. My favourite hotel in Kenya maintains a stagnant pond just off the reception area, stocked with tilapia. Its purpose is to attract mosquitoes and other biting insects, the larvae of which are promptly eaten by the fish. There are few mosquitoes around the hotel.

  3. Thank you for the dazzling Dipterans! Goes to show there’s beauty everywhere. (Even the nasty Deer Flies have the most amazing psychedelic eyes….)

  4. Fly eyes are the coolest and you captured them beautifully. All these photos are spectacular, thanks for the submission. Those rat-tailed maggots look like flagellated protozoa.

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