Can’t See The Wood For The Trees? … What About The Leaves?

x8 images. Double click to enlarge.

Stigmella aurella found on Bramble

It was a fellow blogger Sconzani who runs a wonderful blog with the lovely tiltle Earthstar ~ a celebration of nature who got me looking much more closely at the leaves on not only the trees, but most anything else which has leaves.

Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella larvae leaf-mines
Cameraria ohridella on Horse Chestnut

Leafminers can be from different insect groups. Many species of Lepidoptera (moths), Diptera (trues flies), Coleoptera (beetles) and Symphyta (sawflies), have larvae which mine plants. It is the larvae of these insects which produce these mines within the leaves of plants, feeding on the plants’ tissues as part of their development cycle.

Stigmella microtheriella on Hazel

Mines tend to be restricted to a certain range of host plants and so the identification of a miner is facilitated by correctly identifying these plants. The shape of the mines (gallery or blotch) and the patterns of the droppings (frass), besides characteristics of the larvae and pupae, can be diagnostic. Even the location of where the egg is layed on a leaf can be diagnostic and can help to separate similar species.

Phytomyza ilicis

The Holly Leaf Miner (above image) forms quite a wide gallery on Holly (Ilex), and is only one of two holly leaf miners to be found in the wholes of Europe, and the only one to be found in the UK. The adult female Agromyzid fly Phytomyza ilicis lays its eggs in May or June at the base of the petiole of a young leaf (on the underside). The oviposition scars can be seen on the midrib on the underside of the leaf. The larva initially feeds in the mid-rib, later producing the characteristic irregular upper surface linear-blotch.

Phytoliriomyza melampyga

The fly Phytoliriomyza melampyga mines the leaves of Impatiens species (Balsams). Here it was found on Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), an invasive plant species here.

Lyonetia clerkella on Wild Cherry

The larva of the micro-moth the Apple Leaf-miner (Lyonetia clerkella) feeds on a variety of Rosaceae (rose family) and Betula (birch) trees in small, long and winding leafmines.

Profenusa pygmaea on English Oak

The larva of the sawfly Profenusa pygmaea mine the leaves of various species of oak (Quercus) creating a large blister or blotch mine on the upper surface.

Stigmella microtheriella on Hazel

So next time you are out in the woods … or even in the park or garden … take a closer look at those leaves and see what squiggly patterns or blotches have been created within them.

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.

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


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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Propelled

culicine larva

Before I began to write this I thought, shall I just leave folk guessing what this is? Maybe I will, or … we will see …

It is taken from quite an unusal angle, and I suppose it looks like some kind of unusual golden screw with spikes or hairs radiating outwards. Yet it is a living organism. You cannot see any eyes because they are out of shot, which doesn’t really help much, does it?

There are quite a number of these organisms swimming in my garden pond at the moment forming one of the basis of its ecosystem.

Okay, it is a culicine larva, otherwise known as gnat or mosquito larva. I believe they feed on the algae in the pond. They hang from the surface of the water at an odd angle and breathe oxygen through a tube near the tip of the abdomen. They are amongst the very first creatures to colonise a pond, and they provide food for other life forms to thrive.


Rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.

In The Pink

Thick-legged Hoverfly Syritta pipiens

Thick-legged Hoverfly (Syritta pipiens), on rose.


Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.


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

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.

Tapered Drone Fly II

Tapered Drone Fly Eristalis pertinax

Tapered Drone Fly Eristalis pertinax

Tapered Drone Fly Eristalis pertinax

Please click on images for a larger more detailed view.


Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax), rear garden, Staffordshire, England. April 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

A Curious Fly

Phaonia tuguriorum

The warmer sunshine has been bringing the insects out, and many have set up their favourite sunbathing spots on my Spotted Laurel at the bottom of my garden. But this one was not sunbathing, it was doing something which I had not seen before. Above the Spotted Laurel grows a tall yellow berberis bush which has been blossoming, and now the blossoms are falling. And this little early spring fly called Phaonia tuguriorum appeared to be feeding on them. I guess you got to get your sugar however it comes when you are a fly.

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 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.

Bad Hair Day

Blue Bottle

Photograph taken December 2016, front garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, 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.