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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Bad Hair Day

Blue Bottle

Photograph taken December 2016, front garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Autumn Silhouette

Autumn Silhouette

I am always attracted to how sunlight shines through leaves, and this fallen maple leaf is one of those examples. But here I had the added bonus of a fly which had landed on the other side of the leaf, giving me its silhoutte.

Photograph taken November 2016, local park, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.

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.

Chequered Hoverfly

Melanostoma scalare

Chequered Hoverfly (Melanostoma scalare)

A fairly small and slender black and bright yellow patterned hoverfly. Length 8 to 10mm.

The larvae are predators in leaf litter. The adults feed on nectar.

Seen April to November. Found mainly in grassy areas or along woodland rides. Abundant and widespread throughout the UK.

Photograph 0f Chequered Hoverfly (Melanostoma scalare) taken May 2014, local woodland ride , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Volucella bombylans

Volucella bombylans

This hoverfly looks remarkably like a bee, and exists in two different forms where var bomylans mimics the Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) and var plumata mimcis the White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum). It is distinguished from similar hoverflies by having a hairy body. Length 15mm.

Volucella bombylans

The larvae are scavengers of wasp nests and feed on debris and even the host’s own larvae.

Volucella bombylans

Seen May to August. Found in many habitats, including hedgerows and gardens. A widespread and common species.

Photographs 0f Volucella bombylans taken June 2012, local woodland margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Meligramma trianguliferum

Meligramma trianguliferum

A rather narrow hoverfly with a yellow face and distinctive yellow markings on the abdomen, two of them nearer the thorax are smaller than the others and almost triangular in shape. Length 9 to 12mm.

The terrestrial larvae feed on aphids, and the adults feed on nectar. The larvae are camouflaged to look like a bird dropping.

Seen April to September. Broadleaved woodland, hedgerows and scrub. The adults are often seen feeding on umbels or basking in the sun on vegetation on woodland margins, or even in gardens. Scarce but widely distributed in England, more frequent in the south, and scarcer further north.

Photograph 0f Meligramma trianguliferum taken May 2013, local woodland margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Bluebottles Still Buzzin

Bluebottle Calliphoridae Sp

It’s the end of October and I am amazed at the amount of insect life that is still flying around. I have seen butterflies, although not many now, but plenty of flies and hoverflies, and the odd bee. Oh, and loads of wasps. Here is a Bluebottle (Calliphoridae sp.) catching some sun. I am always taken by the metallic, shiny blue abdomen of these distinctive blowflies.

Bluebottle Calliphoridae Sp

Photograph 0f Bluebottle (Calliphoridae sp.) taken October 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Nemopoda nitidula

Nemopoda nitidula

This is a very tiny black fly which grows up to only 5.5mm long. It mimics an ant.

Nemopoda nitidula

The larva feeds off animal dung.

Nemopoda nitidula

Seen April to September, and is found in various habitats, usually found resting on vegetation waving its wings up and down. Common and widespread.

Photographs of Nemopoda nitidula taken June 2013, local woodland margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Tephritis neesii

Tephritis neesii

Sometimes called picture-winged flies, this species of fruit fly has distinctive dark brown markings on its wings which helps in identification. Length 4 to 5mm.

The larvae feeds on plants of the Asteraceae family, in particular Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare).

Seen June to August, and found where the foodplants grow, meadows and gardens. Common and widespread in the south of England, rarer further north into Scotland.

Photograph of  Tephritis neesii taken January 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with 18-15mm lens.

Conops vesicularis

Conops vesicularis

I remember sitting on a bench in my garden when I suddenly noticed this rather unusual little fly on a plant pot. I had never seen one like this before, or since then.

This fly mimics a wasp with its bright yellow markings. Length 4 to 20mm.

Conops vesicularis

Conops vesicularis is from a family of Thick-headed flies –  Conopis Flies – which are parasitic to wasps and bees. The females lay their eggs on the hosts which hatch into grubs which devour the bee or wasp from the inside. The adults feed on nectar.

Conops vesicularis

Nationally scarce, and absent further north.

Photographs of Conops vesicularis taken April 2011, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

Breakfast, Wrapped And Ready To Go

garden-spider-araneus-diadematus-03

Early morning, the sun has risen beaming down autumn sunrays, and above the sound of twittering birds in the garden I hear a high-pitched buzzing … it may as well have been a scream …

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

I could not see the source of the sound at first, but then I saw this large Garden Spider dangling in its web, and the source of the high-pitched buzzing …

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

What appeared to be a hoverfly caught and being wrapped up tight in a silken package.

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)The buzzing ceased, the monstrous spider wrapping in a frenzy, but a carefully and calculated frenzy, spewing its fine silken wrap to fully encapsulate its paralysed prey.

Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)

When satisfied all was wrapped up good and tight, it carted its bound package up its finely woven web, to foliage where it could feed until full.

Photographs of Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), taken October 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Autumn Air Still Buzzing

Eristalis intricarius

On my walk to the local Beech wood this afternoon I passed some ivy in bloom on a roadside verge, and was quite amazed at how many hoverflies were busying themselves feeding of the sweet nectar and pollen.

I was also taken how the autumn sunlight appeared to make their colours richer.

Eristalis intricarius

They were that busy hovering around from flower to flower they were quite tricky to photograph.

Eristalis intricarius


Drone Fly Eristalis tenax. Local roadside verge, Staffordshire, England. October 2016.

More Marmalade

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Photographs of Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus), taken July 2015, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Mintho rufiventris #2

Mintho rufiventris

Mintho rufiventris

Photographs of Mintho rufiventris taken September 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Flesh-fly

Sarcophaga sp.

Flesh Fly Sarcophaga speciesThis can be a dificult fly to accurately identify as it is one of several similar looking species. This is a large fly with an attractive greyish-black and white chequer-patterned abdomen, a greyish-black and white striped thorax, with large red eyes and large padded feet. Length up to 15mm.Flesh Fly Sarcophaga species

Adult females deliver larvae rather than lay eggs onto rotting flesh which they consume rapidly. They also feed on dung.Flesh Fly Sarcophaga species

They are seen throughout the year, but mostly during the summer months. Found in various habitats, including farms and houses,  and are often found basking in sunshine or feeding on nectar on flowers. They rarely venture indoors into houses like some other species of fly. Common and widespread throughout.

Photograph of Flesh Fly (Sarcophaga sp.), taken August 2016, rear garden , Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Picture-winged Fly

Also called fruit flies, I come across these on my local walks on Burdock. This species is called Terellia tussilaginis, and more can be discovered about it on a previous blog via the link.

Photograph of Terellia tussilaginis taken July 2016, local field margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

1 Greenbottle Hanging On

Greenbottle fly (Lucilia sp.) on basking Bracken. There are a number of different species of Greenbottle fly, all having this bright metallic greenish sheen to them, and they are hard to accurately identify without careful scrutiny.

These blowflies are often seen resting on foliage or flowers, and rarely enters our houses.They are abundant and widespread throughout. The female lays her eggs in dung, carrion or in the wounds of living animals.

Long Hoverfly

Sphaerophoria scripta

It was late afternoon and the sun had retreated, but I noticed this lovely patterned hoverfly feeding on nectar on a shrub in my rear garden. Hoverflies have such beautiful and bright coloured markings, and are one of my favourite insects. Some people run from them because they look like wasps and bees and are frightened they may get a sting. Yet hoverflies are completely harmless, and they mimic wasps and bees for their own protection from predation. The larvae of these insects often eat aphids, so they are a good friend to have in the garden or the allotment.

The abdomen of the male of Sphaerophoria scripta is much longer than its wings, which is more apparent when it is at rest with its wings closed. The abdominal markings are usually four broad yellow bands, although this may vary. There is always a yellow stripe on each side of the thorax. Body length up to 22mm.

The adults are often seen hovering around flower heads in search of nectar on which they feed. The larvae feed on aphids.

Seen mainly July and August. Found on open grasslands, urban wasteland, parks and gardens. Common and widespread in England and Wales, less so further north.

Photographs taken August 2015, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Eristalis arbustorum

A small drone fly with a pale dusted face and no central dark stripe. The abdomial markings may be variable. 10mm long.

The adults are often seen hovering around flower heads in search of nectar on which they feed. The larvae live in stagnant water and are called ‘rat-tailed maggots’ because they have a siphon which can extend to about 5cm long which they use as a snorkel so they can breathe under water whilst feeding on decaying organic material. When fully grown, the larvae leave the water and find a sheltered, drier habitat to pupate. The pupae are reddish-brown in colour and retains the long tail which makes it resemble a small rodent.

Seen most months of the year, but more active in June to August.They are found in various habitats, including flowery meadows, hedgerows, woodland margins, and in flower-rich gardens. A common and widespread species.

Photographs taken June 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Hoverfly Wash Day

Even insects have a sense of personal hygiene, and this Hornet Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) is no exception. It had settled on one of my climbing roses and was happily preening its long proboscis.

Making sure it doesn’t miss a bit, getting right to the tip …

Nice and spick and span …

And time to just chill out …

Photographs taken June 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.

A Regular Visitor

Since I have built my garden wildlife pond this colourful fly has become a regular visitor.

It is called the Sun Fly (Helophilus pendulus), and sometimes more than one visits at a time, buzzing around quite noisily, alighting on stones and vegetation by the pond. They buzz around each other, maybe male and female in a courtship dance? or maybe they are two males battling for territory?

Whatever they are doing, they are fascinating to observe.

Photographs taken May and June 2016, rear garden pond, Staffordshire.

Sun Fly

Helophilus pendulus

This is sometimes called the ‘Footballer’ due to its black and yellow striped thorax. The abdomen is distinctively black and yellow patterned, and the yellow face has a dark central stripe. The hind tibia is black in the distal third only. Length 13mm.  It maybe confused with other Helophilus species, but mainly Helophilus hybridus.

The larvae are commonly called ‘rat-tailed maggots, and are aquatic, living in rotting vegetation in muddy conditions at the sides of ditches and ponds, even in puddles. The adults feed on nectar.

It flies April to October. Found almost anywhere, including gardens. Common and widespread.

Photographs taken April and June 2014, and June 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Mintho rufiventris

This is a relatively small and slender tachnid fly which I discovered on a step. A dark, bristly species with distinctive red markings on the sides of  its abdomen, and a pale grey median line. Length 8 to 11mm.

The adults feed on pollen and nectar, and the larvae is mainly a parasite of Pyralidae moth caterpillars. The female lays eggs on the moth larvae, and when they hatch the resulting maggots feed on the caterpillars.

Seen May to September in various habitats. Nationally scarce, mainy found in southeast England, gradually spreading north.

Photographs taken June 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Yellow Dung Fly

Scathophaga stercoraria

Who said romance was dead? These pair of flies surely didn’t think so. They found a nice pile of horse dung and let nature take its course.

The males are a very golden-yellow colour, and quite furry. The females are greyish green and not so furry. Length up to 10mm.

During summer the males swarm in large numbers on every cowpat to attract the less common females. After mating the females lay their eggs in the dung on which the larvae later feed on. The adults feed on other insects that frequent the dung.

Seen April to September wherever there is cattle or horse dung, like pastures and fields. Very common and widespread.

Photographs taken December 2015, local field, Staffordshire.

To Be Or Not To Be A Bee But A Fly

The Bee Fly (Bombylius major) may have been seen visiting your garden this spring, and one could be forgiven for thinking it to be a bee at first glance. It is in a fact a fly which mimics a bee. I found this one basking in the warm sun on an old log in my back garden. Note the long, almost needle-like probosis.

This is quite an unmistakable fly with its brown furry body, long, needle-like proboscis, and dark-edged wings. It also has long hairy legs. Despite the length of its proboscis, and that the insect itself resembles a bee, this fly does not sting and is harmless. Length 10 to 12mm.

The larvae is a parasite living in the nests of solitary bees and wasps, feeding not only on the host’s food store but the host’s larvae. The adults mimic bees so they can get close to the host nest so the female can flick her eggs inside it. The adults feed on nectar.

It flies March to June, and occurs in a variety of habitats, including gardens. Common and widespread in southern England, the Midlands and southern Wales, but scarce in southern Scotland, and absent further north.

Photograph taken April 2013, rear garden, Staffordshire.

Terellia tussilaginis

I often see these tiny, colourful flies in one particular spot in a local field. They are known as ‘Fruit Flies’ or ‘Picture-winged Flies’. A yellow coloured gall fly with dark patterns on its wings. Length 4 to 5mm.

The larvae feed on Burdock causing galls.

It flies June to August, and is found where the foodplants grow, meadows and gardens.

Common and widespread in the south of England, rarer further north.

Photographs of Terellia tussilaginis taken July 2015, field margin, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2015. Camera used Nikon D3200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens.

Narcissus Bulb Fly

Merodon equestris

This bulbous hoverfly was feeding on nectar in my front garden. It looks remarkably like a bee, and has many colour forms which help it mimic different species of bumblebee. The legs are all black and have a prominant bulge on the underside of the hind femur. Length 12mm.

The larvae feed on the bulbs of flowering plants such as daffodils and bluebells. The adults feed on nectar and pollen

Seen April to September, and found in many habitats, including woodland, hedgerows, parks and gardens. A widespread and common species.

Photographs taken June 2014, front garden, Staffordshire.