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Flying with two wings

Flies and mosquitos are categorized in the insect order diptera, which refers to the fact that they have only two wings (most other insects have four).

Until I started paying attention, I never knew quite what variety of flies there are, even in my own back yard. Some of them resemble houseflies, but many are more wasp-like in appearance. Some buzz around mightily, while others are so tiny they're hard to see.

Insects, yum!

Flies' appetites vary. Some of the more interesting ones prefer to feed on their fellow insects.
This predatory fly (probably a scathophagid) was carrying around a smaller fly. Since flies don't have biting mouthparts, they can only eat liquid food. To eat its prey, it needs to dissolve it in its enzyme-rich saliva. Bon appetit.
Robber flies hunt other insects for a living. This one is a hanging thief (Diogmites sp), named for the way it hangs from its forelegs while maneuvering its prey with the remaining four. I'm not sure if the wasp in the photo was its prey or just a bystander. diogmites hanging thief robber fly
Eudioctria albius: robber fly

Another robber fly, this one a good bit smaller. It is most likely Eudioctria albius. Its irridescent eyes looked like they were different colors, depending on the angle from which they were viewed.

Yum, dung!

This golden dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria) is grooming itself with its front legs. This species occurs worldwide, laying its eggs in dung of domestic and wild animals. Adults are predatory, mostly eating other flies. dung fly

Multi-faceted love

toxomerus mating These two little syrphid flowerflies (probably toxomerus geminatus) were inseparable, flying from one perch to the next one sunny day in early October. syrphidae mating
Tritoxa flexa: black onion flies mating

I spotted these black onion flies (Tritoxa flexa) in the curve garden on an early evening in late June. They are supposedly associated with cultivated garlic, but we don't grow any of that at the moment. Perhaps they like Egyptian walking onions too – those we have in the veggie garden. mating eristalis flies


Late October is still a great time to procreate, especially on a warm sunny day with a fragrant garden mum perch. While larger than the ones above, they also belong to the syrphid flies, in the eristalis genus.

mating phoridae (scuttle flies)


I found these scuttle flies (in the Phoridae family) on an early-summer evening. The family has members all around the globe, with thousands of species representing a great diversity of habitats and food sources. These ones in particular have nice big clear wings. Not commonly seen in our garden.

Tachinids and syrphids

Tachinid flies feed on flower nectar as adults, but their younger stages are parasites of other insects. This one, a featherlegged fly (Trichopoda sp.), uses true bugs as its unfortunate hosts.
These syrphid flies, resembling small wasps, are quite abundant in the late fall, here seen visiting a Sheffield mum. wasp-striped syrphid fly
Syrphid fly: Helophilus fasciatus (female)

 

The patterning on this Helophilus fasciatus syrphid identifies her as a girl-fly. She's lounging on a pendent panicle of sea oats (Chasmanthius latifolium).

syrphid fly: toxomerus geminatus (male) syrphid fly: toxomerus geminatus (female)
The most abundant syrphids in our garden are these little Toxomerus geminatus flies, recognizable by the little keyhole patterns along the center of their backs. The one at left is a male, at right a female. Drone fly: Eristalis tenax?

One cool October afternoon, I spotted this fuzzy insect sleeping on the leaf of an Abelmoschus manihot. I thought for sure it was a solitary bee, but upon closer inspection (and checking at BugGuide.net), I found out it was in fact a fly that takes on a bee-like appearance for its own evolutionary reasons: Eristalis tenax, the drone fly. Conveniently, he remained motionless as I repositioned his bed this way and that to take a few photos. Must have had a hard day going about its drone duties...

Blowflies

A small blowfly, probably the Lucilia illustris greenbottle. I see them around throughout the season, usually on flowers. greenbottle lucilia illustris
orange-bodied blowfly Here's another one, probably also in the Lucilia genus, just as irridescent, but with more of a bronze coloration.

And much, much more...

So many flies, most of them go without ID. Here's a sampling. brown-winged muscid fly

Many flies resemble the common housefly. Like this brown-winged gentleman, who is a member of Muscoidea, and apparently resembles Phaonia fuscana.

long-legged fly Condylostylus (dolichopodidae)

This tiny thing caught my eye because it's so shiny and colorful. A long-legged fly in the dolichopodidae family, a species of Condylostylus. long-legged fly Condylostylus

This one, also a Condylostylus, wasn't quite as small, and more uniformly red in its metallic sheen. fruit fly Strauzia


Several of these fruit flies (in the Strauzia genus) were roaming the undersides of sunflower leaves for a few weeks in early summer. I think of them as punk rock flies! thickheaded fly conopidae

 

This is a thickheaded fly from family Conopidae, most likely a species in genus Physocephala. They look like slender-waisted wasps, but their wings give them away.

Bee flies

Xenox tigrinus: tiger bee fly

Bee flies are furry like bees, but their other anatomical characteristics give away their flydom. The first time I noticed one, an impressive specimen of tiger bee fly (Xenox tigrinus), it particularly attracted to me and my shirt one day in August. The attraction wasn't mutual, but he looked cool enough for me to take his picture. Since then, I've seen several more, although I don't consider them common in our garden. The one shown here was perched on the kids' swingset.

Midges and gnats

Chironomini midge

Midges are tiny little things – so small that I don't typically notice them or take their picture. I should pay closer attention, because up close they are fascinating creatures. Like this one, a male in the Chironomini tribe, with marvellously feathered antennae and gilded legs. Sciaridae: dark-winged fungus gnat

This small fly (no more than a quarter inch long - those ridges are my fingerprint lines) is one of many species of dark-winged fungus gnats, in family Sciaridae. Not sure what it was doing where I found it (on our patio table in full sun) – they typically prefer damp habitats.

Mosquitos and such

tipulidae crane fly

Looking like a huge mosquito, luckily this insect, a cranefly (Tipulidae family) doesn't bite. Like mosquitos, though, it likes moist environments, and its larvae are aquatic.

limoniid crane fly

This meadow crane fly (limoniidae family) was quite attached to a goatsbeard flower one June evening. In the close-up, its mouth parts look quite impressive – good thing they can't bite humans.
limoniid crane fly


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Last modified: October 18, 2014
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