In Still Waters

x6 images. Double click to enlarge.

Culex larva

They say when you are out in the wilds and need to drink water from the land you should boil it first … and you can see why. The above image is a mosquito larva from the genus Culex. The larva lives submerged in water and feeds on particles of organic matter, microscopic organisms or plant material. Culicine larvae float with the head low and only the siphon (breathing tube) at the tail held at the surface of the water. After several instars it then develops into a pupa, then eventually into an adult like the one below … a real bloodsucker and potential vector of one or more important diseases of birds, humans, and other animals.

Culex adult
Dasyhelea larva

Often found in ponds or pools, puddles, tree hollows where water collects, and in gardens in birdbaths, tubs, gutters, and other places where standing water collects, members of the family of biting-midges Ceratopogonidae can be found.

Dasyhelea larva

These are most likely Dasyhelea genus, but the adults of these do not actually bite or feed on vertebrate blood or predate on other invertebrates. The adults take nectar only, an unusual feeding behavior within the family Ceratopogonidae, which includes the Highland Midge (Culicoides impunctatus), which do bite humans and feed on blood, often occuring in many numbers. Some species of Dasyhelea are important pollinators of plants such as cocoa trees and rubber plants.

Dasyhelea pupa

The larvae are primarily herbivorous, feeding on green algae, diatoms, fungi and detritus.

Dasyhelea pupa casing

Face Fly

x2 photos. Double click to enlarge.

Species Musca autumnalis. A sexually dimorphic species where the males have bright orange and black patterned abdomens and the females are light grey and black. These are obviously all males.

This species gets its common name from its habit of landing on the faces of cattle or horses where they feed on secretions of the facial orifices, around the eyes, mouth and nostrils. The adult flies will also feed on the hosts blood through wounds such as Horse-fly bites. The larvae develop in animal dung.

I came across these in a local horse pasture sunning on a fence post. There were several of them, all males, and they were quite approachable to photograph.

Not a Moth or Even An Owl

x2 images. Double click to enlarge.

These are actually called ‘Moth Flies’, or ‘Owl Flies’ or even ‘Drain Flies’. This one is Psychoda surcoufi. This is very small with a wingspan of 2 mm (5/64 in). They belong to a family of flies called Psychodidae.

You can see why they are called ‘Moth Flies’, for they can be easily mistaken to be one of the micro-moths … but not an owl, surely? They have the ‘Drain Fly’ tag because they can congregate in large numbers around drains in swarms. The larvae actually breed in drains, too. They even like the residue at the bottom of toothbrush holders if they aren’t cleaned out often enough, laying eggs and producing larvae which will feed on the bacteria and other matter gathered there. Not a pleasant thought.

Fabulous Fly

x1 image. Double click to enlarge.

This attractive fly is called the Broad Centurian (Chloromyia formosa). It is a sexually dimorphic species where both male and female have a shiny green thorax but the female has a blue-green abdomen, sometimes with a violet sheen, and the male has a bronze abdomen. This is a female. Look closely and you may notice the eyes are covered in dense black hairs, which helps to distinguish it from the similar Sargus solderflies.

The larvae feed on decaying organic matter.

Tigers In The Garden


Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma flavescens) – We have had zebras and now we have tigers. This is a female with a pointed tail end. Another ferocious looking insect but it does not bite or sting. Craneflies in general play an environmentally important role. Their larvae help enrich the soil, turning dead organic litter into nutrient-rich material. This colourful adult was attracted to my shed light.

Interesting fact: Craneflies can loose their legs very easily as a way of escaping predators. Unfortunately I don’t think they grow back, so it is a good job they have 6 to start off with!

To add: Craneflies belong to the insect order called Diptera, which are the true flies. So they are related to bluebottles, greenbottles and houseflies.


Tiger Cranefly Nephrotoma flavescens female

Tiger Cranefly Nephrotoma flavescens female

Double-click images for a closer look.


Common Red-legged Robberfly


Dioctria rufipes – I came across several of these beastly robberflies whilst strolling down by the river. It was quite a slow flier, but as can be seen in the image, it did not stop this one from snatching a bite to eat. Once they knew I was around they did not stick around, so I count myself lucky this one was otherwise distracted which allowed me to get this shot in. Double-click on image to enlarge.


Common Red-legged Robberfly Dioctria rufipes

© Peter Hillman ♦ 25th May 2020 ♦ Local riverbank, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


St Mark’s Fly


Bibio marci – There have been quite a few of these large dark flies recently out and about. The male is depicted in the top image, and the female below, which shows obvious differences between the sexes. They appear around April 25th, St Mark’s Day, hence the name. They are quite slow and lazy fliers. Double-click images to enlarge.


St Mark's Fly Bibio marci male

St Mark's Fly Bibio marci female

© Peter Hillman ♦ 4th May 2020 ♦ Local woodland margin, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Sun Fly


Helophilus pendulus – I have seen a couple of these hoverflies around the garden pond today, buzzing around, and almost like they are chasing one another before settling down on the plants, and then off they would go again, then settling on a rock this time … and off again with boundless energy. This is a male of the species, and the only shot I got before it was off again!


Sun Fly Helophilus pendulus male

© Peter Hillman ♦ 25th April 2020 ♦Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Common Yellow Dung Fly


Scathophaga stercoraria – flies, like spiders, are not everyones cup tea, I know … but here is another fly, this one I discovered resting on fern. Double-click image to enlarge.


Common Yellow Dung Fly Scathophaga stercoraria

© Peter Hillman ♦ 22nd June 2019 ♦ Local woodland path, Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Tricholauxania praeusta


A small fly at around 4mm (3/16in) long. They are often seen sunning themselves on vegetaion, and they are fairly common and widespread. The larvae of these flies are important recyclers of dead plant material. Doubl-click for a closer look-see.


Tricholauxania praeusta

Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 23rd June 2019
Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire


Like Polished Metal


Syrphus sp. – I am fortunate to have many hoverfly visitors to the garden. This one was taking a break from all that hovering about by resting on a leaf of my crabapple. Double-click to see more detail.


Syrphus sp.

Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 26th June 2019
Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire


Arrival of The Daddy Longlegs

Tipula oleracea

Of x2 images. Yep, it is that time of the year you will find these large flies attracted to the house lights, and before you know it you will have these gangly flying insects bouncing manically off your kitchen or bathroom ceilings and walls as you either try to swat them or catch them. I tend to catch them in a plastic container, let them out the window, and if I am not careful they will fly straight back in again! One of the delights as autumn closes in and the nights draw in.

Tipula oleracea

Tipula oleraceais is probably the commonest cranefly found in Britain, and with its blunted end this is a male.

Front garden. September 2019 © Pete Hillman.

 

Playing Hide & Seek

Drone Fly Eristalis tenax

This Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) was quite comical to observe, because it really was quite a shy fly. It was basking on a leaf near my pond, and as I neared it instead of flying off like they do most of the time it crawled behind the leaf and peered out at me. When I turned my back it was out again on the surface of the leaf! I approached again, and it snuck behind the leaf again, just popping its head out.

Feel free to click the image to enlarge and click again to get even closer …

September 2019 © Pete Hillman.

Flie Having Fun In The Shade

Flesh-fly Sarcophaga sp
Flesh-fly (Sarcophaga sp.)

Click to enlarge … click again to enlarge even more so and scroll up and down and marvel – as I have – at the intricacies of nature’s design, the power and the beauty even in humble flies…


July 2019, local field, South Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Another Don’t Double Click Scenario

 

 

Bluebottle Fly (Calliphora vicina)
Bluebottle Fly (Calliphora vicina)

… but if you want to double click on the image, well … you have been warned …

They just love the sweet flowering spindle.


June 2019, rear garden, South Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

 

Green & Bronze

Lucilia sericata

Lucilia sericata

Lucilia sericata

Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …


Meet Lucilia sericata, a  brighly polished-looking fly. This one has rather tattered wings.

June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Not For The Fain-Hearted

Calliphora sp.

Feeding time with Calliphora vicina  – Bluebottle Fly. You can see why you don’t want them landing in your sugar bowl!

Do not click and click again to enlarge!


June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Hoverfly

Drone Fly Eristalis tenax

Drone Fly Eristalis tenax

Drone Fly Eristalis tenax

Drone Fly Eristalis tenax

Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …


Drone Fly Eristalis tenax, June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Beautifully Blue – For A Fly

Calliphora sp.

Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …


Bluebottle Fly Calliphora vicina June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Feeding Time

Calliphora sp

Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …


Bluebottle Fly Calliphora vicina June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

What It’s Not

Narcissus Bulb Fly Merodon equestris

… well it’s not a Red-tailed Bumblebee which it is trying to mimic. It is a hoverfly called the Narcissus Bulb Fly Merodon equestris, also known as the Greater Bulb Fly. It knew the rain was on its way and had found a cosy covering under some spindle leaves.

Narcissus Bulb Fly Merodon equestris

Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …


June 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Chequered Hoverfly Melanostoma scalare

Chequered Hoverfly Melanostoma scalare

Chequered Hoverfly Melanostoma scalare

Chequered Hoverfly Melanostoma scalare

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


Female of the species, September 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Sicus ferrugineus

Sicus ferrugineus mating

I came across this lovely couple as I was walking through the local fields. They are conopid flies, or thick-headed flies, which frequent hedgerows and flowery meadows where they feed on nectar or pollen. The larvae are parasites which feed on wasps and bees.


Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


May 2018, local field, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

Common Awl Robberfly Neoitamus cyanurus

Common Awl Robberfly Neoitamus cyanurus

This was quite a bold fly which appeared not to be bothered by me invading its space as I maneuvered myself and my camera about it, fiddling with the camera settings during the changeable light.

Common Awl Robberfly Neoitamus cyanurus

Common Awl Robberfly Neoitamus cyanurus

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


June 2018, local woodland margin, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Marsh Snipefly Rhagio tringarius

Marsh Snipefly Rhagio tringarius

I came across this distinctive fly near my local river, and it certainly did stand out from the greenery and was quite hard to miss. The toffee coloured wings are really quite something, apart from the carrot orange body of the fly with its black markings. It is generally found in areas of rich vegetation like hedgerows, woodland and damp meadows, and it is fairly common and widespread throughout Britain. The larvae lives in the ground where they feed on earthworms and beetle larvae, where as the adult feeds on other flies. The adult may be seen May through to September, usually resting on vegetation as can be seen in the photograph above.


Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


May 2018, near local river, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman. Sigma 18-300mm lens.

Return of The Sun Fly

Sun Fly Helophilus pendulus

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


Sun Fly Helophilus pendulus resting on a stone on the edge of my garden pond. May 2018, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman Sigma 18-300mm.

 

Let’s Have Some Marmalade!

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

By pure coincidence as I was photographing the garden pond for the previous blog to my joy I had this delightful little visitor alight on the Yellow Flag Iris.

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

It is called the Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus, and I had to do quite the balancing act, getting my socks wet more than once, to get these photos as it had landed on the Iris which is growing in the pond.

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

At first it appeared to be feeding or drinking water droplets from the flower, but it was also giving its back legs a good washing.

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Whatever it was doing it certainly brightened up this rainy, grey leaden day for me 🙂

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer


May 2018, garden pond, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman Sigma 18-300mm with AML72-01 achromatic macro lens and Sigma 105mm macro lens. Yep, it even gave me time to change lenses between shots.

Hoverfly Larva

Hoverfly larva

This apparent small blob of semi-translucent jelly is a hoverfly larva. I discovered this one on my roses, and it loves aphids and should help to keep their numbers down.

I don’t know what species it is, but it is quite amazing to think that after consuming hundreds of aphids in this stage it will grow into an adult similar to what can be seen below. It is called the Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus).

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

May 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

Quite The Poser

Yellow Spear-winged Fly Lonchoptera lutea

As you can see this is quite a small fly I discovered sunning itself on a petal of Lesser Celandine. It is called the Yellow Spear-winged Fly Lonchoptera lutea, and it prefers shady habitats, despite it warming itself on this occasion.

Yellow Spear-winged Fly Lonchoptera lutea

April 2018, local woodland margin, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

Volucella inanis

Volucella inanis

This is a large black and yellow wasp mimic similar to Volucella zonaria, and the first time I have recorded it in my garden.

The adults visit a wide range of flowers from June to September. Before 1995 this species had been confined to southern England, especially London. Over the years it has expanded its range quite dramatically up to Yorkshire.

Volucella inanis

The larvae live in the nests of social wasps where they feed on the grubs.

Double click on images to enlarge.


August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Peplomyza litura

Peplomyza litura

Quite an unusual yet handsome small fly this one. From the family of Lauxaniidae, it has a length of 5mm (around quarter of an inch).

Found in hedgerows and on woodland margins, the adults can be seen June to October. Fairly common and widespread throughout England and Wales.

Double click on image to enlarge.


August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Tachina fera

Tachina fera

This is certainly a fly you cannot miss with it’s bright orange abdomen, dark stripe and bristly appearance. It is fairly large, too, as flies go with a length of 9-16mm (0.4-0.6in).

Tachina fera

This one was taken with my Water Mint, feeding on its nectar. The adults are usually seen May to September. They are fairly common in England and Wales. The larvae are parasites of caterpillars and other larvae.

Tachina fera

Tachina fera

Double click on images to enlarge.


August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Tricholauxania praeusta

Tricholauxania praeusta

The colour of this small brightly coloured yellow to orange fly really caught my eye. It is about 4mm (0.16in) long, and is seen May to October. A fairly common and widespread species, it can often be seen resting on low vegetation or feeding on the nectar of flowers. The larvae feed on dead leaves.

Tricholauxania praeusta

Tricholauxania praeusta

Double click on images to enlarge.


August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Black Fly Simulium sp.

Simulium sp

This very tiny fly which I happened to find on my patio door is a Simulium. It is from a genus of black flies which are between 3 and 7mm (0.1 and 0.3in) long. Not to be confused with aphids, these are biting flies which suck blood, including human blood, and which can cause serious health problems in some countries. Also referred to as biting midges,  we can sometimes get plagues of them over here in the summer. It is the female that bites, and after feeding she will lay her eggs in water where the larvae will hatch. They are usually found where there is permanent or semi-permanent running water like streams and rivers. This is mostly likely a male with the larger holoptic eyes. There are several species in Britain, so it is hard to pin down the exact one without microscopic scrutiny.


September 2017, Staffordshire, England.

Lucilia sericata

Sometimes called the ‘Common Green Bottle Fly’ or the ‘Sheep Blow Fly’, it is one of the commonest and best known flies. Very distinctive with its metallic green colouring and dark bristles, but it can also have a metallic copper green tinge as well. It is often found basking on walls, fencing or vegetation. And it is also one that will readily enter houses. It is similar to other ‘greenbottle’ species, so care has to be taken in identification.

Lucilia sericata male

It can be seen most times of the year, but mainly during the summer months. Found in various habitats, but especially where there is human habitation. The females can lay many eggs which can result in a maggot infestation in exposed meat products. They can also infest sheep causing sheep strike, which is an invasion of living tissue which has to be treated quickly or the sheep may die.  Lucilia sericata is commonly used in human medical treatment of wounds, and is called ‘maggot therapy’. The larvae feed on dead tissue and bacteria which may cause infection. These maggots also play an important role in forensic science when trying to determine time of death.

Lucilia sericata male


July 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Tipula lateralis

Tipula lateralis female

I initially found this large cranefly on top of blanketweed in my garden pond. They can grow up to a length of  2cm (3/4 inch), and have a distinguishing pale line which runs down the back of the abdomen. This is a female with the pointed abdomen, which is actually her ovipositor for laying eggs.

Tipula lateralis female

The adults can be seen March to October, and around water. Common and widespread throughout. The semi aquatic larva feeds on rotting plants at the bottom of ponds or streams.

Tipula lateralis female


August 2017, Staffordshire, England.

Calliphora vomitoria

Calliphora vomitoria

Even the name of this fly Calliphora vomitoria sounds kind of disgusting, with the ‘vomitoria’ no doubt relating to its habit of regurgitating its food and then eating it again. But it is not really its fault, as we will see later. ‘Bluebottle’ sounds better, which is a description of its gleaming blue abdomen. It belongs to a family of blowflies called Calliphoridae, which are fairly familiar to most of us as they are fairly large and stoutly built with a loud buzz. Most breed on decaying animal matter, and thereby assist nature in its essential recycling regime.

Calliphora vomitoria

There are 14 genera and 38 species within Calliphoridae according to The Royal Entomological Society of British Insects (2011 edition), some of which include some of the greenbottle flies. There are 1500 worldwide. Calliphora vomitoria is often confused with Calliphora vicini. They both look superficially very similar, except with closer scrutiny Calliphora vomitoria has pale ‘cheeks’ and the jowls, below and behind the eyes, are covered in yellow/orange hairs. These can be seen on some of the images in this blog if you look carefully, but particularly in the image below and the final image. Double click on them for a closer look. Calliphora vomitoria grows up to 10–14 millimetres (0.4–0.6 in) long

Calliphora vomitoria

It is said that blowfly maggots can compete with a lion at the speed in which they can strip a carcass down to the bone. This is obviously a fallacy, but it does reflect on the extraordinary efficiency with which these insects consume body tissues. At the smell of purification the adults will come, often in packs, and the females lay their eggs on soft tissue or near open orifices. The resulting maggots will feed quicker in hotter weather, but finally they will pupate within the corpse to emerge as adult flies. Despite how much we may loathe them, especially when they enter our houses and buzz around our heads and our food, they are our friends in that they help to clean up after death has had its way. Yes, they can spread disease and make food inedible, and the adult flies also vomit up their food to slurp it back up again. But evolution has not made their digestion as straight forward as ours. Their stomachs simply cannot cope, so they have to take it a bit at a time, regurgitate, and then add a mix of digestive enzymes to help break it down and fit for their digestion.

Calliphora vomitoria

Calliphora vomitoria can be seen all year round, but mostly from March to October. They are common and widespread in Britain, and can be found virtually anywhere.

Calliphora vomitoria

As much as flies trouble us at our picnics buzzing around our heads and our food, as much as we revile them, they are intrinsically woven into the fabric of our lives, as they have been for many thousands of years. In forensic science they help establish a time of death. Some blowfly larvae from Lucilia sp. are used in maggot therapy to help cleanse wounds, removing necrotic tissue. The adults are very good pollinators. So here we have it in a buzz or two, despite some of their most horrible and terrible traits, there is a balance of where they do, do some good.

Let us finish on an interesting poem from Raymon Queneau, which just shows how flies and humans play a dance throughout life until death:

When one sees flies, one thinks: they came from maggots. When one sees men, one thinks, to maggots they will come.


Photographs taken in August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

Britain’s Largest Hoverfly The Hornet Hoverfly

Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria

Measuring almost 2cm (almost 2 inches) long, this is our largest hoverfly. It is called Hornet Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), and it was enjoying itself amid the blooms of my Buddleia.

Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria

Hornet Hoverfly Volucella zonaria

July 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.