Saturday, June 5, 2010

Up Close with a Fly

It was 5:00 and time to go home. All the staff were headed up the walkway for their cars when my eyes were caught by the actions at a daisy - another flower fly?

When I got up close to it, the coloration struck me as different from any other flower fly I had seen. Must be yet another species, I thought, so out came the camera to record the insect and send it off for ID.

And then I saw the mouthpart(s). Flies have sponging mouthparts - this rather thick protruding part with a flat, rounded "sponging" bit at the end. I really really wanted to get a good photo of this mouth part, so I shot frame after frame in pursuit of the perfect shot as the fly made its way around the center of the daisy dabbing up pollen (and nectar?).

If you look closely, you can see that the sponging bit is covered with coarse hairs, which serve to help the fly taste its food. In fact, most of the hairs on the fly's feet and mouth are used for tasting. A fly will walk across food to taste it, and then, if it is interested, it will taste it again with its mouth.

Some flies "spit" on their food before eating it. The special enzymes in their saliva liquify, or pre-digest, the food for them, making it easier for the fly to consume.

The good folks over at belive this is some kind of soldier fly (Stratiomyidae), but so far none of them recognizes it. Will keep you posted.


  1. It amazes me how you get such great bug shots! Thanks for looking so closely and taking such good photos. Otherwise, I could never see all these fascinating details.

  2. Your photography skills are amazing. I know I've said this over and over again. You have a talent and I hope you pursue it!