Tag Archives: True Flies

Dead Heads

Myathropa florea is quite a pretty name, prettier than Dead Head.

These Hover Flies are called Dead Heads because the pattern on the black thorax (The first part of it’s body behind the head) is supposed to resemble a blackened skull.

Dead Head Hover FlyThese are one of the easier Hover Flies to identify. There are a lot that you just can’t get to species from a photograph, you have to chop them up and examine them with a microscope.

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

Dead Head Hover Fly

8It has lovely yellow hair, don’t you think?

The Pellucid Hover Fly

A couple of days ago I posted a picture of a Pellucid Hover Fly (above) without properly identifying it. So just to set the record straight and while I am having my coffee and making my plans, this is a Pellucid Hover Fly.

Pellucid HoverflyThis one is a female, it is the same with all Hover Flies, the female’s eyes are spaced apart and the male’s eyes meet in the middle.

The Pellucid is one of the UK’s largest flies and quite easy to identify. It has a large white band through the middle of the abdomen and dark spots on it’s wings, also a very pretty face.

Pellucid HoverflyThe colouration is supposed to mimic a bee or wasp, that may serve to deter attacks from birds but there is another reason behind it.

The female is an intrepid beast. She enters the nest of wasps (Common and German) and lays her eggs in their nests. The larvae feed on the debris at the bottom of the nest. Despite the fact that she doesn’t look much like a wasp she is allowed to do this without being attacked even though Wasp’s nests are otherwise pretty well guarded places. This may be a symbiotic relationship as the larvae clean the nest and remove (eat) dead Wasps and their larvae and they also eat other insects that they find in the nest.

When they are ready to pupate the larvae leave the nest and pupate underground and adult flies emerge sometime around June.

Volucella pellucensMost Hover Flies look a bit like Bees or Wasps and that must help to prevent attack but they don’t sting. The big difference between a Hover Fly and the Bees and Wasps is that Hover Flies only have two wings. They belong to the order Diptera (The True Flies) and Diptera literally means “two wings”.

All insects have four wings but in the Diptera the hind wings are tiny and are not used for flying.

Volucella pellucensso that is the beautiful female Pellucid Hover Fly, Volucella pellucens.

Pellucid Hover FlyHere is the male of the species.

Pellucid Hover Fly

Pellucid Hover FlyNow while you were reading that I have had a chat with Fizz and we have decided to give the Butterflies a rest for today and go up to the woods in search of a particular fungus that I feel quite confident of finding and of course we shall play ball in the fields on the way. So we shall see you later.

Have a nice Tuesday.

Like attracts Like

Hi, I have had a very frustrating morning chasing a single butterfly around a large field and not catching it. Now I need a sit down before I take Fizz out.

I thought that I could show you some pictures of a Scorpion Fly. These are old pictures, I didn’t take any photos this morning because I couldn’t get close to my target and I didn’t take pictures of anything else because I was obsessed and now I will have to go back tomorrow.

People sometimes leave nice comments saying that my pictures are beautiful and I appreciate that but I do know that it is not the picture it is the animal that is so strikingly beautiful, seeing it up close can take you aback.

Here is a prime example of what I am talking about.

Scorpion FlyThis is a Scorpion Fly, Panorpa spp. (spp means “species” and when you see that it means we don’t know which species it is) there are three species of Scorpion Fly in the UK and to separate them you have to examine their genitals under a microscope, which shouldn’t be that difficult because that big Scorpion like sting is actually his genitalia but I didn’t have a microscope on me.

Scorpion Fly

Scorpion FlyPerhaps he is not a classical beauty and you might be thinking, “Who could possibly love something that looks like that, apart from Colin of course?”

The answer is, someone who looks like this.

Scorpion FlyThis is a female Scorpion Fly and she doesn’t have the big wotsit stingy thing but she is the more formidable of the pair.

Neither fly has a sting or offers any harm to humans, they eat mostly dead insects that they either find or steal from Spider’s webs.

However the female will sometimes kill the male after mating.

Most websites will tell you this, “to avoid being killed the male will offer the female a gift, in the run up to mating, of a large glob of spittle.”

Personally I think that is half the problem, spit is not a popular gift idea and that is more likely the reason why she tries to kill him.

Scorpion Fly

Scorpion FlySo there we have it another adorable Diptera species the Scorpion Fly.

Male

Scorpion Fly

FemaleScorpion Fly

 

Tachinid Flies

There are more than 8000 members of the family Tachinidae that can be identified and it is understood that there are many more that haven’t been identified yet. Very few of them have common names and of all of those species there are only a handful that you or I would be capable of identifying to species. Today I am going to show you two of them.

Tachina fera first.

Tachina feraTachinid flies are endoparasitoid.

Just so that we all understand:

A “parasite” lives on or inside it’s host without killing it, like a flea or a tapeworm. A “parasitoid” kills it’s host and “endo” just means that it lives inside the hosts body rather than on the outside.

The larvae of Tachinid Flies live inside a host insect, they eat it and ultimately kill it. The way that they get inside their host varies, some tachinids inject their eggs into the host’s body, others glue them to the outside of the host with a bond that cannot be broken without killing the host. (Superglue) and there are others that lay eggs on a plant for the host to eat.

Tachina feraNature has a balance.

Tachinid Flies are extremely good news for plant life. The adults drink nectar and they are very important pollinators. They  can live in places that other pollinators can’t. They can live at very high altitudes for instance. They also kill insects that would otherwise eat plants.

To the green or organic grower tachinids are a valuable natural pest control allowing us to avoid the use of pesticides.

I have even heard that in North America non-native tachinids have been released for the purpose of organic pest control. Using these flies in that way is a bit risky in my view as most of them are not host specific, they attack more than one particular species and it involves making a decision to alter nature’s balance and a belief that you fully understand the consequences of doing so.

To the organic gardener though, you can attract tachinids by planting nectar rich species and they will help to control pests in your garden.

Tachina feraTachinid species attack all kinds of insects including beetles, sawflies and also the larvae of butterflies and moths. Tachina fera is a parasitoid of various moth species including the Small Quaker, Broom Moth and Dun-Bar.

Tachina feraSo why are Tachinids in the news today?

Well, it is hard to go searching for Small Tortoiseshell Larvae without noticing the activities of our next fly Pelatachina tibialis.

Pelatachina tibialisIt is a parasitoid of the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies amongst others.

Sometimes I just look and think, why does that have to happen, butterflies don’t do any harm? Sometimes I don’t know the answer.

Pelatachina tibialisIt is plain that Pelatachina tibialis is a valuable ally of the Stinging Nettle, the caterpillars do a lot of damage to the plant. It is also obvious, from poking around in the nettles that a whole lot of different species are dependent on Nettles and so, there is the balance.

Pelatachina tibialisEverything out there is there for a reason and everything has a job to do. They are all inter-connected and inter-dependent.

Natural science is very good at telling a Panda from a Polar Bear but we don’t fully understand the social structure of a Badger Clan yet and we hardy know anything at all about Pelatachina tibialis or what it is doing here. Sometimes you just have to have faith.

Pelatachina tibialisNature is very cruel, it has no empathy.

At least we have saved Treacle from being weighed in those scales.

Pelatachina tibialis