Sunday 1 August 2010

Macro Monday: Please Don't Kill Me.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Hoverflies have a distinctive pattern of veins in their wing. Look for the vein that goes all around the edge of the wing.
  4. Wasps fold their wings while resting, hoverflies wings lie flat and open.
  5. Hoverflies hover, usually around flowers.
  6. 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.


Cortes said...

Why can't the hoverfly have a distinctive beep or something? I hate wasps, and if it looks like one as it approaches, I am afraid it is serious danger of being swatted!

And I do believe you will be working in Ecuador, no, really I do. :-)

Roan said...

Cool, but suspect I would be swatting if this fella surprised me. ;)

Vicki said...

He is very beautiful when you stop swatting and admire his colours.

Michelle Simpson Photos said...

Such an intriguing insect! I love the first photo :)

msdewberry said...

These are very cool photos, and if the hoverfly likes aphids I'll let him live so long as he keeps my roses clear of those nasty aphids.
Love the detail and clarity of your photos.

Michelle Simpson Photos said...

You are so right! Thanks for the heads up! I am changing that right away :)

Jama said...

Wow, these macro are so awesome!

Kala said...

Great macro and I promise not to swat him!

joco said...

I notice that California Hoverflies are equipped with sunglasses :-)
Ours don't need those in the UK.

English Mum said...

Great photos - I have tweeted it yet again (I'm turning into your twitter pimp).

Have a great time 'working'.


Hootin Anni said...

That photo of the wasp looks venomous. LOL

AN OLD RUSTED LANTERN is my macro shot today. I hope you can find time to stop by for a visit. Have a great Monday.

jay said...

Wow - excellent photos!

You forgot to mention that most hoverflies don't make any sound at all while flying, whereas wasps and bees buzz. But thanks for doing this post. So many people don't know the difference and kill these little guys and really, it's so easy to tell the difference if you look!

One of our hoverflies breeds in water and helps keep the ponds clean of gunk. Most useful. :) That one does make a bit of a buzz while flying, but it looks a lot more like a fly than a wasp.

Have fun in Ecuador!

Business trip, indeed. LOL!

Annelie said...

Wow, you really know how to do Macro!

Tanya said...

Great macro shot! I wish the bugs would stay still long enough for me to get captures as wonderful as yours!

Maaike said...

WOW Great shots!

Baino said...

I photographed one once and didn't know it. Fortunately, European Wasps are very rare here so easy to distinguish. I didn't know they were so useful though so I'll keep my newspaper flat. Enjoy Ecuadore *business my ass*

maggie said...

Don't know what your job is but I am guessing a photojournalist what with the quality of the gab and the stunning shots.

Kate said...

*I* know what she does for a living [wink].

For some reason this post reminded me of that silly Mr Bean trying to kill that wasp that arrives at his picnic. Lovely shots, as always.

Carolina said...

luckily, I can run faster than my mother

Hehehe, you are hilarious!
And Not the outcome the poor fly was looking for when choosing its wardrobe, hehehe too ;-)

I'm off now, to book a holiday to Alaska, with my mother ;-)

Have a great trip dear, hope you get some work done there. Poor you!

Carolina said...

Oh, and I have never killed a hoverfly intentionally. I knew the distinctions. And I only kill wasps indoors and if necessary to prevent the dogs or cats from catching it. I've been known to rescue wasps from drinks and putting them out in the sun to dry. Can I get bonus points please?

Don't Bug Me! said...

Cortes: If it beeped, all potential predators would know that it was OK to eat, and that would kind of defeat the whole black and yellow thing, wouldn’t it?
At least someone believes me.

BJ: Look before swatting – I think I shall start a campaign.....

Vicki: Yes, and a marvellous piece of natural engineering if you watch them hovering.

Michelle: Thank you and glad you got my message :o)

Msdewberry: The larvae of some hoverflies are quite voracious predators of small, soft bodied insects, so they should help your roses with their aphid issues.

Jama: Thank you.

Kala: He will thank you for it, or perhaps I will instead. Thank you!

Joco: I thought that you had a great summer this year – I noticed that there was no rain over Wimbledon for once.

EM: Ooooh, I have a pimp! I really am moving up in the world, aren’t I? Perhaps I need all the help I can get, so thank you!

Hootin’: Looks can definitely be deceiving......

Jay: Quite a few hoverfly larvae are saprophytic, living in some quite disgusting places – the rat-tailed one is the most well known, with its long, telescopic abdomen which can poke out of whatever disgusting mess it happens to be living in, in order to breathe.

Annelie: I have been practicing.

Tanya: I will let you into a secret – this one had been in the fridge for a while to slow it down. Once it warmed up, it flew off.

Maaike: Thank you.

Baino: No, really, it IS business. I shall do my best to hate every minute of it.

Maggie: Well, that must be the best compliment that I have had in a long time. Thank you. But, alas no, I am not a photojournalist. Unless anyone out there wants to hire me???? Please.......

Katherine: Oh, don’t tell. I quite like people thinking that I could actually do this for a living.

Carolina: I did check that her will was up to date before the trip! And yes, you definitely get extra bonus points for actually rescuing wasps

MyMaracas said...

I love that you stop and look, and that you appreciate the beauty of small creatures. I'll keep an eye out for hover flies. I suspect I've been seeing them and thinking they were bees. Either way, I'm not inclined to swat.

Unknown said...

the first photo is amazing, thanks for the info.

Unknown said...

PS, welcome back!

Suldog said...

Just as a matter of course, I never swat anything unless it is already doing me some sort of harm. What right do I have to kill something just because it happened to wander into the space I was occupying?

Jazevox said...

i never seen a hoverfly before, you make me a believer, keep them alive and dont slap them. they remind me of ladybugs, good for the plants.

in your pics, hoverfly looks like a bee and a fly at the same time, its going to be a challenge to identify, especially when you hate bees and flies.. jazevox