No, not a bee eating a bee. Even better! This is a bee-mimicking robber fly, Laphria, feeding on a honey bee. The fly casually alighted next to me in the garden this afternoon, as though it wanted to be photographed with a trophy kill.
Laphria is an exemplary bumble bee mimic. The flies not only look like bumble bees, they move and sound like them as well.
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 400/800, f/14, 1/125 sec
diffuse off-camera strobe, handheld overhead
Our front porch has been host to some shiny black Virginia carpenter bees. Earlier this year a couple females chewed burrows in the woodwork in which to store pollen and lay eggs. I had been keeping my eye on the nests to see if I might be able to catch an emerging young bee.
This afternoon, however, I found something even more interesting. Behold!
A Xenox tigrinus bee fly must have been successful in breaching a carpenter bee’s defenses. Death by parasite is the unfortunate fate of many insects, and bee flies inflict their share of damage on solitary bees whose nests are inadequately protected. Below are a few more photos of the Xenox flies.
During the day our showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) is visited by the usual sun-loving suspects: bumble bees, sweat bees, hover flies, butterflies, and so on. I was curious about what happens after dark, though, so I just popped out to have a look. It’s nearly as active at night, too, but with a different set of species!
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 200, f/13, 1/200 sec, diffuse twin flash
I recently had the opportunity to photograph one of the odder spectacles among insects: a common house fly emerging from its puparium using a giant inflatable head. What’s deal with this strange behavior?
Many millions of years ago, some flies figured out an ingenious way to protect their delicate developing pupae. Instead of shedding their last larval skin and discarding it, as do most insects, these flies (the Cyclorrhapha) retain it as a sort of armor- the puparium– and metamorphose inside. It’s a great example of evolution re-purposing an existing structure for a novel function.
Emerging as an adult inside an unbroken suit of armor has its own difficulties, however. What makes it hard for predators to get in also makes it hard for flies to get out. So they pump their heads full of hemolymph, inflating a balloon-like structure called the ptilinum, and burst their way to freedom using hydrostatic pressure.
Once the fly has emerged the ptilinum deflates back into the head, leaving a characteristic upside-down U-shaped suture.
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D camera
f/13, 1/250 sec, ISO 100
(top) background flash; (mid, bottom) diffused foreground flash
My commercial gallery now has flies!
I feel sort of embarassed at how few fly images I have, considering the importance of the group. That’s something I’ll try to remedy as we get into this summer’s photography season.
photo details: Canon 65mm MP-E 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper
Rhagoletis fruit flies mating, Arizona
photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 200, f/11, 1/200 sec, backlit by handheld strobe.