Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have a selection of insect photos from regular Mark Sturtevant, whose comments and IDs are indented:

Here is the final batch of photos taken over the summer of 2017. Enjoy!

We begin with a picture of some very tiny flies that were feeding from flowers. They’re clearly not mosquitoes, although they do somewhat resemble them right down to having a long proboscis. They were eventually identified as members of the bee fly family (Bombyliidae), so named because larger species resemble bees. Adult bee flies are important pollinators, while their larvae are parasitic on a range of insect hosts. This species is in the genus Geron.

The weird little fly shown in the next picture would have stumped me, but with the above bee fly identification I knew the family and that led to identifying it. This is a scaly bee fly (Lepidophora lepidocera). It was sipping the sweat off the arm of a friend of mine while we were out photographing insects. He could not get its picture because of its location, but I made him hold still so I could!

Moving on, I always find something to see in the Magic Field. Three species of tiger beetles are to be found in this field, and my favorite is this one: the festive tiger beetle (Cicindela scutellaris). Their colors can be pretty amazing (and variable), as shown in the link, but most of the ones around here are much darker. The first picture was of an individual that allowed me to get barely close enough for pictures. The much closer picture is of a beetle that allowed me get as close as I wanted. But that individual was pretty dusty.

Tiger beetles are clearly active predators, and long as I can remember they were placed in their own family while also being closely related to the ground beetle family. They are divided into two groups, and the most familiar group is known as the ‘flashy tiger beetles’. The festive t.b. is clearly a member of that crowd. Other tiger beetles are black or some other plain color, and they closely resemble ground beetles. I had recently learned that the entire tiger beetle family has been placed within the ground beetle family(!) I am probably out of the loop on many other revisions of this sort.

Next are pictures of a garden spider (Argiope aurantia) who was completing her egg sac near the end of the season. I had not seen this since I was a wee kiddo, and it was nice to observe. She was single-mindedly going ‘round and ‘round her enormous parental investment, carefully securing her “preciousss” for the long winter that was fast approaching.

On one of my last outings before winter, I found this nice big ‘n bristly Tachinid fly (looks like Juriniopsis adusta) on one of the last blooming goldenrods. These flies are of course parasitic on other insects, and this species is parasitic on caterpillars.

Finally, on the same plant was this nice surprise: an oötheca from a Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis). This will stand over the winter, and about a hundred little mantids will emerge all at once the following spring. This is a cheering thought.



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Nice set!

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Mark – your photos become better and better each time I see them! I really like that cute bee fly and you captured it so well with it all in focus!

    The mantid eggs – I’ve seen the sacs and sometimes the birds find them before Spring & eat them all up, which is disappointing since I really like mantids & wanted to see the young ones.

  3. Posted March 9, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    The link to the festive tiger beetle is here: Odd how I don’t notice these things before I send them in.

  4. Jenny Haniver
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Every one of your links goes to the scaly bee fly.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 9, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      “Go” or “goes” — it’s too early in the a.m. for me to unscramble my brain and I haven’t had coffee. But my bad grammar isn’t the issue. I see that you made one correction, but there are more.

      I especially like the Tachinid fly and the mantis ootheca.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted March 9, 2019 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Thank you!

  5. rickflick
    Posted March 9, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    These are all great. I’m glad you are able to get down on your knees and come up with these bees, and things. The only one I’m familiar with is the garden spider. There’s a whole universe in the dirt, ripe for discovery.

  6. Posted March 9, 2019 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    These are cool and captivating, Mark. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  7. tjeales
    Posted March 10, 2019 at 4:45 am | Permalink

    Wonderful set. I’m jealous of the tiger beetles. Very hard to photograph

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