Yes, I am back. Obviously, I did not get eaten by any bears in Alaska, although it was pretty close - luckily, I can run faster than my mother. However, I did get eaten, one very small bite at a time, by some nasty little blackfly. I am not going to tell you the locations of all my bites, but really, how on earth did they get there!?!
This week's macro marvel is a little guy that will not bite you or sting you or in any other way harass you, so please return the favour by not killing it. While it may look like a bee or wasp, this little dipteran delight is a hoverfly, designed to pollinate your flowers as an adult and eat those nasty little aphids infesting your roses as a larva.
The fact that the hoverfly looks like a wasp or other dangerous stingy thing is, of course, no accident. This is a classic example of Batesian mimicry, where a harmless organism pretends to be something dangerous. This is, generally, a good idea, since it will stop many predators from hunting you down and eating you. However, it can backfire where humans are concerned. While we are not interesting in eating these critters, I suspect most of us do not want to be stung by them. So, our immediate reaction to anything black and yellow is to swat at it with a bit of rolled up newspaper. Not the outcome the poor fly was looking for when choosing its wardrobe, I fear. Since the hoverfly is both harmless and very useful around the garden, I thought that I would give you a couple of pointers on how to distinguish this fly from a wasp:
- One pair of wings rather than two - although this can be difficult to spot, since wasp hindwings are connected to their forewings by a series of tiny hooks.
- The antennae, since wasps have longer, elbowed antennae, whilst hoverflies have shorter more globular antennae with a little stalk sticking out of the top. Granted, this might still be hard to spot whilst chasing the insect down with the Sunday supplement.
- Hoverflies have a distinctive pattern of veins in their wing. Look for the vein that goes all around the edge of the wing.
- Wasps fold their wings while resting, hoverflies wings lie flat and open.
- Hoverflies hover, usually around flowers.
- Wasps have a very distinctive narrow "waist: between their thorax and abdomen.
OK, so most of these things are hard to spot, given the diminutive size of these insects, but please try. The hoverfly will certainly appreciate it.
Now, I know you are going to be really disappointed to hear this, but I am off again at the end of the week, to Ecuador this time, for three weeks. Just to be clear, this is a business trip, and has nothing to do with pleasure. I repeat, I am going to be working..........oh, why even bother, I know nobody is going to believe me.
Toodle pip then, and see you in September.
For more Macro Monday, go here.