Posts Tagged ‘fly’


Lepidophora lepidocera, photographed at Kickapoo State Park, Oakwood, IL, September 22, 2013. Click/double click image to enlarge.

During  my Field Biology class’ collecting trip to Kickapoo State Park on September 22, 2013 I encountered a fly species entirely new to me.

Lepidophora lepidocera, a bee fly, has a proboscis specialized for nectar feeding and the long hairs typical of all of its relatives in the family Bombyliidae. Adults are characterized by a bouncing flight pattern and the “broken-back” appearance distinctly shown in the individual above. Larvae, which are parasitic, can be found in wasp nests where they parasitize wasp larvae.

Like most other insect species, there is no common name for this species.

Thanks to buddy Eric Eaton, co-author of the “Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America”, for producing a guide that made identification of this individual so simple.

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Bee fly (Exoprosopa sp)


Bee fly (Exoprosopa sp.) at the University of Illinois Arboretum‘s Idea Garden. Click/double click image to enlarge.

Bee flies (family Bombyliidae) are flies whose coloration pattern, hairiness, and hovering behavior combine to make them appear particularly beelike.

Larvae of individuals in the genus Exoprosopa are parasites of underground bee, wasp, and beetle larvae. Adult Exoprosopa are pollinators.

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Syrphid fly (Eristalis sp.) at the University of Illinois Arboretum’s Idea Garden. Click image to enlarge.

For those of us living in east central Illinois, NOW is the time to get out to see a wide variety of pollinators and other insects. My preferred locations in Champaign-Urbana are the University of Illinois Arboretum, University of Illinois Pollinatarium, and Meadowbrook Park in Urbana. Kickapoo State Park is my favorite location for photographing water-associated species.

I find the best local insect viewing takes place from mid-July to mid-September. I prefer to do most of my arthropod photography between 10 AM and noon. The combination of lighting and activity at that time tend to be excellent.

Night observing and photography tends to be at its best from early August through late September. More about that very soon!

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Two syrphid flies feed from a peony flower at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Arboretum’s Idea Garden. Click/double click image to enlarge.

National Pollinator Week (June 17-23) in Champaign-Urbana ends with two days of pollinator-related activities. As usual, the University of Illinois’ entomology department coordinates all of the local activities. Information regarding several particularly noteworthy workshops follows:

Saturday, June 22 – Exploring the Science of Pollination (11 AM – noon, Urbana Library)

Sunday, June 23 – Guided Nature Walk (10 AM- noon, Meadowbrook Park, Urbana), Insect Photography Workshop (Noon – 1 PM, Meadowbrook Park, Urbana), Nurturing Native Bees Workshop (2 PM – 3 PM, U of I Pollinatarium, Urbana)

Alex Wild, author of Myrmecos, will lead the photography workshop. It’s a great opportunity to learn about macrophotography. His National Pollinator Week insect photography workshop in 2009 was the catalyst that started my interest in macrophotography.

All activities are free of charge. The full schedule, accessible at http://www.life.illinois.edu/entomology/pollinators/, provides additional detail.

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Seeing the world through new eyes

Flower fly (Syrphus ribeseii) feeding. I often disregard this species when photographing because it is so common. Thanks to my students for making me look more closely. Click image to enlarge.

One of the highlights of every fall is field season with my Field Biology class.

I had the luxury of growing up in an area surrounded by open fields and meadows, minimal adult supervision and expectation, three TV channels, and a world where stranger danger wasn’t a daily societal concern.

My students, on the other hand, are growing up in a busier, noisier world. From the time they take their first steps, they are pushed, prodded and encouraged through music, dance and swim lessons, sport team involvement, structured language and culture enrichment, standardized test preparation again and again and again, math tutoring, SSAT, ACT prep, SAT prep, required “volunteer” work, and the continual expectation that the kids have the strongest resumes possible prior to the end of their junior year.

Almost every Sunday throughout September and October we put the brakes on our noisy, frenetic world for five hours of community centered around exploring arthropod diversity in a number of different habitats throughout east central IL.

I really enjoy seeing the students’ excitement when they find a new species or have opportunity to witness mating, predation and the myriad of other behaviors we discuss during the week in class. My students’ unbridled enthusiasm makes me look more closely and better appreciate the activities and roles of various common species.

I’m certainly fortunate to teach in a school that allows me to step out of the traditional Monday through Friday scheduling rut, and to have a wife that is supportive and willing to shoulder more than her fair share of responsibilities during the weekends.

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About the size of a large bumblebee and slow flying, this tiger bee fly (Xenox tigrinus) was quite easy photograph. Click image to enlarge.

These large flies first become obvious in mid-summer. This individual has spent the past two days near some old railroad ties we used in past landscaping.

Females seek unprotected nests containing large carpenter bee (Xylocopa sp.) larvae. If successful, the female tiger bee fly lay hers eggs in the nest, and her larvae feed on the carpenter bee larvae.

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Note the elongate, spiny legs used for grasping prey in flight, as well as the large piercing-sucking mouthparts. Click/double click image to enlarge.

26 species of Diogmites are widely distributed throughout the U.S, though their range extends into South America. They can be found on low growing vegetation where they await a variety of prey species including wasps, flies, and dragonflies.

Robberflies seize the prey with their spiny legs while in flight and then stab their piercing-sucking mouthparts into their prey before feeding on body fluids.

Several other robber fly species can be seen at https://thingsbiological.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/sonoran-desert-robber-flies and https://thingsbiological.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/robber-fly-promachus-sp/.

The eyes of these visual hunters are particularly well developed. Click image to enlarge.

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