Readers’ wildlife photographs

Reader Mark Sturtevant sent us some insect photos, along with his notes (indented). There’s also a new biology word to learn in the description of the nursery spider.

Here is yet another installment of insect pictures from last summer for your readers at WEIT. It seems that this supply might never end, but actually it is winding down though there are plenty more from the Fall and even the Winter and now this summers’ supply is already beginning to grow.

First up is a delicate mayfly. I think this is one of the ‘flat headed mayflies’, and it may belong to the genus Maccaffertium; but I do not rule out Leucrocuta. Note the weird compound eyes that swoop behind the head and the big simple eyes staring upward.


Next is a nursery web spider (Pisaurina mira) that I found under a milkweed leaf. This large spider  comes in different colors, as explained here. I showed one of the other varieties a while back, and that too was under a milkweed leaf. This new one demonstrated that these spiders are strongly thigmotactic since it firmly sat on its leaf, desiring to keep a purchase on its substrate even after I held the leaf upside down to take its picture. After a time it would zip to the opposite side of the leaf and cling there instead of dropping to the ground…


… so I simply rotated the leaf back to take more pictures. This little game went back and forth for a while until I felt that I had enough pictures.


Speaking of things found on milkweed, here’s a handsome monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus). There were quite a few of these in my favorite meadow late last summer.


Finally, we have a dancing peacock fly (Callopistromyia annulipes) which was shown previously by reader Mike McDowell. If you truly believe, you can see eye of Sauron in its wings. Getting this picture was a bit of an effort. The fly was strutting around on a big dead log, but my attention was initially on a couple of jewel wasps that were also patrolling the log. They refused to cooperate for a picture —always flying off the moment I drew my camera near them and then coming back —but this little fly stuck around, watching me closely while always waving its wings. So I stacked up all my extension tubes and went in close for a picture of it. But as I moved forward to get it into focus, it would walk backward, staying just out of range. I would then withdraw to catch my breath (it was an awkward and exhausting position), and I would try again. Finally, I just lunged forward for a rapid burst of pictures and managed to get two decent ones before it flew off.



  1. Posted June 1, 2016 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    That’s a fantastic peacock fly photo. Great capture!

    I had never heard of them. Hope I get to see them some day.

  2. Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Love the photos! I’ve never seen a peacock fly and now have a new target to search for. Where were these photos taken, approximately?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      That one was at Holly Lake, in eastern Michigan. I think they are pretty widespread. I do not know their habitat preference, but maybe on dead wood (?). I have since seen a lot of dead ones on windowsills, so they may be pretty common. They are about the size of a pin head.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 4, 2016 at 4:48 am | Permalink

        “They are about the size of a pin head.”

        So cool! Are you crawling along on your stomach when you discover things like this? I’m going to have to start looking much more closely at the arthropodian graveyards of my windowsills!

        Are you based in MI?

  3. Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    That is a cool new word to me. Can’t wait to find an excuse to use it in a conversation.

    • Posted June 1, 2016 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Oh, yes. Great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jacques Hausser
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Kudos, Mark. The peacock fly is just fantastic, with the narrow depth of field available it would be very difficult to do better. And the strange eyes of the mayfly (a male, I guess) are worth a second look; I know that they are used to detect females flying above, but I wonder if the simple eyes are actually precision cameras (like in jumping spiders).

  5. Ken Elliott
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    I believe! I believe I see the Eye of Sauron in the wings of the peacock fly. Thank you for all those beautiful pics.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 1, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    “Peacock … f-l-y … Danger, Will Robinson! Does not compute!”

    Amazing photos though.

  7. Diane G.
    Posted June 4, 2016 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    The mayfly and the peacock fly in particular are well worth double clicking on to see the big pictures!

    We have a huge bed of milkweed, a perennial, but very few Monarchs in the last 3 or 4 years. Very sad.

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