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


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


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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

A Tired Visitor

Narcissus Bulb Fly Merodon equestris

This hoverfly, the Narcissus Bulb Fly (Merodon equestris), must have been a tired fellow, for I found him quite still and resting on the arm of one of my garden chairs earlier this morning. His wings looked a little worse for wear and quite worn out. He must have done a fair few air miles.

Narcissus Bulb Fly Merodon equestris

Narcissus Bulb Fly Merodon equestris

Narcissus Bulb Fly Merodon equestris


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles

Greenbottle Lucilia sp

I believe this to be a Greenbottle blowfly, a member of the Calliphoridae family of the order Diptera and a Lucilia sp. I did not realise at the time of photographing that this female was blowing quite a clear bubble for me.  This appears to be quite a common activity in the insect world. So why do flies and some other insects blow bubbles? Well there appears to be several theories regarding this:

  • It aids in digestion.
  • It helps to clear the mouthparts.
  • As a defensive mechanism.
  • Elimination of excess water through evaporation.
  • Thermoregulatory

There are other theories, but I don’t think anybody really knows for sure. It’s not like you can ask them, “Hey, what you doin’ that for?'” is it?

Some bubbles are clear and some are opaque. Males do it as well as females. The bubbles are always redigested, never disgarded, unless sprayed in defense, although I have never seen this. Not that I avidly wait around and stalk flies waiting for them to blow bubbles.


Please click on the image for a larger more detailed view. Clicking a second time may get you a little closer.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

 

European Blowfly

Calliphora vicina

European Blowfly Calliphora vicina

Commonly called the ‘Bluebottle’ fly, several of them appear to be enjoying feeding off my Spindle which is just coming into flower at the bottom of my garden. This is the commonest of the Blubottles in Britain, Calliphora vomitoria being very similar, but less common. Calliphora vicina has quite a striking metallic blue abdomen with black and light grey markings, the thorax a dull grey, and the jowls are orange, where as Calliphora vomitoria are black.

European Blowfly Calliphora vicina

The adults are mainly seen April to November, but they can be found all year round. It is common and widespread throughout Britain.

European Blowfly Calliphora vicina

The larvae of these flies readily breed in decomposing organic matter, especially carrion, and have followed humans on our travels to take advantage of the waste material we leave in our wake.

European Blowfly Calliphora vicina


Please click on the images for a larger more detailed view.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Dolichopus ungulatus

Dolichopus ungulatus

I believe this to be the species identified in the title as there are several similar species. To note the yellowish legs, black antennae, black hairs behind the eyes, and there are several preapical bristles on hind femur. Although its has a similar metallic green to some of our Greenbottle flies, it actually belongs to a family of flies called Dolichopodidae, known as the long-legged flies for obvious reasons.

Dolichopus ungulatus

I noticed it for the first time earlier this year around my garden pond, and this is the sort of habitat they enjoy, damp and moist. The adult as seen here are predacious, and they feed on soft-bodied arthropods and can help keep pests down such as aphids. Maybe that’s why I keep finding it around my roses as well as my pond.

Dolichopus ungulatus

They are generally seen May to July, and, besides my garden, can be found in wet grassland, hedgerows and woodland margins. Fairly common and widespread in England and Wales.


Please click on the images for a larger more detailed view.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

The Sun Fly Returns

Sun Fly Helophilus pendulus

The hoverfly, Sun Fly (Helophilus pendulus), is back and landing on rocks around my garden pond. It appears it may well be a regular visitor.

Sun Fly Helophilus pendulus


May 2017, Staffordshire, England.

Flesh-fly II

Flesh-fly

Flesh-fly

Flesh-fly

Flesh-fly

Please click on the images for larger, more detailed views.

Nikon D7200 with Sigma 105mm macro lens, ISO 100, 1/125sec at f/7.1, handheld.


Flesh-fly, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

Epistrophe eligans

Epistrophe eligans

This is one hoverfly that has eluded my camera until now. For a fly it is certainly a showy one with its shiny brassy-coloured and yellow markings. A relatively small hoverfly with a wing length of between  6.5 to 9.5mm, it is mainly seen in the spring, from March through to May, feeding on flowers or resting on vegetation. The larvae are aphidophagous, feeding on aphids found mainly on trees and shrubs, so a good one for the gardener. Found on woodland margins, in hedgerows and gardens. Common and widespread throughout most of Britain, although scarcer further north.

Epistrophe eligans


Epistrophe eligans female, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. April 2017.

Bee Fly Flying

Bee Fly Bombylius major

I had a visitor today. This Bee Fly (Bombylius major) was feeding from one of my Grape Hyacinth blooms between April showers.

Bee Fly Bombylius major

Bee Fly Bombylius major

It must be tiring work all this high speed buzzing about, as it had to take a rest on a stone in the warm spring sunshine.

Bee Fly Bombylius major

Bee Fly Bombylius major

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) IV

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Another insect was attracted to the early spring sweet offering from the Lesser Celadine. Another fly, with the delightful name of the Marmalade Hoverfly.

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Bee Fly Bombylius major

Bee Fly Bombylius major

It has been a very changeable morning with the light, having to keep altering the camera settings as the sun ducked in out of the clouds like it was playing some kind of celestial hide-and-seek, but at least it hasn’t rained yet. I went on one of my walks through the local woodland, mainly looking for one of my very favourite spring wild flowers, the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria). As I enjoyed the yellow splendour of early spring I happened upon this extraordinary little fellas, who was drinking from this sweet flower cup.

One may be forgiven for thinking this is a bee, or even a hoverfly, but it is in fact a fly called, rather confusingly, a Bee Fly (Bombylius major). It mimics a bee as a defence mechanism, and it sure fooled me at first glance! One cannot help but take notice of the almost needle-like proboscis which, in the image above, can be seen sprinkled in fine pollen as it probes the centre of the flower.

I observed it for a short while as it hovered from flower to flower, taking a sip here and there, before I lost sight of it.

To learn more about this interesting fly please visit my previous blog “To Be Or Not To Be A Bee But a Fly”.

Phaonia tuguriorum

Phaonia tuguriorum

This is one of the earliest flies to appear in spring after coming out of hibernation. The wings have fairly distinct markings, and the abdomen and thorax are light grey with darker markings. The upper legs are reddish-brown, and the lower section is black. Male and females are similar. Length 6 to 8mm.

Phaonia tuguriorum

The larvae live in humus and amongst mosses, where they hunt for other insect larvae, particularly leather-jackets. The adults feed on nectar.

Phaonia tuguriorum

The adults fly February to October, and in milder winters until December. Found in various habitats, including gardens, and inside houses. It is often seen perched on fences or vegetation in early spring, catching some warming sunshine. Common and widespread throughout Britain.

Phaonia tuguriorum


March 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Phaonia subventa

Phaonia subventa

I know flies are not everbodies cup of tea, so to speak, but some certainly stand out and have the most striking colours and patterns.

One of many similar species of housefly. It has an orange body (females have more black colouration) and a grey and white stripy thorax with an orange scutellum. It has a distinct bulge in the outer edge of the wing which is typical of the Phaonia genus. Length 6 to 8mm.

Phaonia subventa

The larvae live in decaying wood, rotten vegetable matter or carrion.

The adults fly March to October. Found in woodland and along hedgerows. Common and widespread in England and Wales, declining in numbers further north.


May 2015,  rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Chirosia grossicauda

Chirosia grossicauda

This small fist-like ball on the end of this fern frond is caused by a fly called Chirosia grossicauda. The larvae tunnel into the central veins of the pinnules in late summer and cause them to roll downwards from the tip. The solitary white maggot feeds on the main vein by mining. Mature larvae most likely pupate in their galls. Widespread and fairly frequent in Britain.

Chirosia grossicauda

Photographs of Chirosia grossicauda taken June 2014, local woodland margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Making The Most of The Fading Blossoms

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Early November and this hoverfly is making the most of the fading rose blooms.

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Photograph of Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) taken November 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens. Manual setting ISO 100. 1/200 sec. f/6.3. No flash, hand-held.

On The Windowpane

Tipula confusa

This morning I spotted this cranefly on my living room windowpane as I was eating breakfast. Grey skies and rain outside, perhaps it was wishing it was indoors.

Photograph of Tipula confusa, taken October 2016, on living room window, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.