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The Wacky World of Flies

Bee or wasp mimic fly, Hocking County, Ohio, May 31, 2010.

UPDATE: Janet Creamer reports that the fly above is the wonderfully named Ornate Snipe Fly, Chrysopilus ornatus. Some photos of its close relative the Golden-backed Snipe Fly can be found HERE. Thank you Janet.

I must confess to having a bizarre interest in flies. They're everywhere - far more than the Average Joe would suspect. Train your eye to watch for them, and you'll notice all manner of strange and extraordinary flies lurking about, in every type of habitat. There are scads of species - flies are in the order Diptera, and an estimated 250,000 species roam Planet Earth. My guess is there are far more than that; few people study them and many species doubtless go undescribed at present.

If time only allowed, I would spend more of it trying to capture macro shots of flies. Seen well, like the mimic fly above, they are truly works of art. Some flies mimic bees, others wasps, some even butterflies or moths. Collectively they play an integral yet underappreciated part of our ecosystem, serving to pollinate plants, decompose the dead, control other insect populations, and provide food for predators. So many are their number that I suspect we'd have quick ecological collapse should all flies suddenly be removed from earth.

As I have become more interested in flies and photographing them, I've noticed something interesting. This is a "long-legged fly"; at least that's what I call them. I should say that I often don't know what species I'm looking at, other than in a very general way if I'm lucky. It's not like there's a Sibley Guide to the Flies of North America, or a Flies of Ohio field guide. Determining a specific identification can be quite time-consuming.

Anyway, note how the long-legged fly is in flight. I took this last Monday in Hocking County, and the creature's reactions are so fast that the flash of the camera stimulate it to move before the camera can record its image! I find this incredible, but I've watched similar lightning fast reactions from them about every time I've tried to shoot one.

This fly is something very similar to the one above, apparently, although I shot this image back in March in Guatemala. Same thing - I probably tried a dozen shots, and in every case the fly would bounce off the leaf in response to the flash and before the camera could catch it. I just got lucky on this image, and happened to catch it as it darted into the air.

This is real Superman stuff! Just imagine if you had those sorts of reaction times. You could catch bullets in your teeth! It'd be interesting to study these creatures and see if it is possible to discover what physiological characters allow them to be so rapidly responsive.

Another long-legged type of fly, also from a Guatemalan jungle. This one didn't react to the flash like the ones above, and appears unrelated other than the long legs. Note its blood red eyes. It only allowed me a few shots - I wish I had had time to really work it as the thing was stunning and really good macro shots would be interesting.

If you know the identity of any of these flies, even if only to genus or family, please let me know.


Shog said…
I enjoy photographing flies as well. The flies are very sensitive to the pre-flash that many camera use to determine exposure or reduce red-eye in creatures with pupils. See if your camera offers an option to turn that feature off, look for pre-flash/modelingflash/etc in the menus.
Nicole said…
I didn't realize that we had such strange looking fly "creatures" here in Hocking County. We do well to shoo away the every day variety from our picnics!

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