Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Red-footed Cannibal Fly

A bumble bee, genus Bombus. Mild-mannered but large and somewhat intimidating, most critters give them a wide berth. They can sting, you know. So, for the most part these big fuzzy bees bumble about the flower patch with impunity, not probably giving a lot of thought to danger. After all, who is going to tussle with one of these black and yellow behemoths?

This. It's a Red-footed Cannibal Fly, Promachus hinei, and there are few insects higher up on the predator chain. As you can see, it has captured a bumble bee and is enjoying the fruits of its kill. If these things ever evolve to the size of Trumpeter Swans, I pity the humanoids that walk the earth in that grim future landscape.

The consumate killer, this robber fly misses nothing and seemingly can take out nearly any other insect. I once saw an amazing photo of one that had captured an Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly. Well, pondhawks are pretty much the goshawks of the dragonfly world, routinely snagging and eating other dragonflies up to their own size if not larger. For a fly, of all things, to take one out is amazing.

While exploring some Adams County prairies last Sunday, our group encountered several cannibal flies, but none so cool as this one. It was something to watch it lug that bee around, and after a bit of patient stalking, I was able to get my lens within a foot or so. It's perched on a Little Bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium.

The world of flies is indeed wacky, wonderful, and diverse in the extreme. They can be annoying, such as the common houseflies that haunt your garbage. Some are mimics extraordinaire, looking all the world like bees or wasps. Many are harmless pollinators of flowers. Some are dangerous and insidious death-dealers - parasitoids - laying their eggs on other insect hosts which will eventually be eaten alive by the larvae.

Then there is this - the Red-footed Cannibal Fly. It gets my vote as King of Fly World, at least in these parts.

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4 comments:

Wil said...

Wow, how cool is that. Great find to see one and get close enough to photograph it with prey. Yes, I can just imagine the SciFi with the giant robber flies...Steven, I have an idea...

Wil

Jack said...

Thanks for this post..Thats really mind blowing..nice photography..

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Bj said...

Thanks for teaching me something today! I got a picture I'd like for you to see and let me know if it's the same type. Go to July 20 post. Click on the bee photo to see the larger image. Thanks

Teresa said...

I had one land on my head the other day. It felt big and I could hear the deep hum of its wings. Then I saw it and pretty much totally freaked out and ran into house as fast as possible. Haha! I was pretty sure it was going to eat me and my children. I tools some photos & posted on FB but no one knew what it was. They weren't the best photos. Then today I saw it again and it had a wasp killed in its grasp. Way bigger than the wasp too. It's become my new favorite bug. It's just way too cool the more I learn about it. We've named ours Tim. Hopefully it'll stick around. Ha!