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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two Flies Vie for my Languid Attentions, debate the Merits of Twigs vs Flowers

Sometimes it seems like there is nothing interesting to observe in the garden. Like every bug out there is the same old same old and there's really no point in photographing, posting or maybe even looking. I was in that mood one morning when I sat at the outdoor dining room table to slurp coffee. I think I even made a remark about there being nothing whatsoever of interest, sighed, put my chin on my hand and glanced hopelessly toward the buddleia flouncing onto the table. And there was this gorgeous stripey-eyed syrphid fly, Eristalinus taeniops, resting under the blossoms. Still, this was nothing new as I have posted on this species before: newly arrived from Africa, nectar feeder, breeds in the neighbors' stagnant water. Nice photo op, though.

So after that and my coffee, like a camel with one foot in the tent, I snuck back to the jungle to see if my luck would hold. A large something buzzed by. Then alit on a broom corn stalk on the other side of the garden. Flew off as I approached. Came to rest on another plant back where I was before. Flew off. Came back to the original stalk, where I was able to get off some shots as it posed in what seems to be its characteristic "scoping out the neighborhood" stance known in the scientific community as Twig Perching. This is a robber fly, Malophora fautrix, also called bee killer fly for its habit of preying on bees (and wasps). Now this was something new, and apparently this is the only representative of the genus in California, so new and special! I could find only vague snippets as to the habit of the larvae; some Malophora are known to lay eggs on tall vegetation or flower heads which hatch and fall to the ground below where they parasitize scarab beetles. Not sure if this species does that, but it sounds cool. I'll be on the lookout for unusual eggs on my tall vegetation.

Though the observer's attention may flag, that does not necessarily mean there is nothing interesting out there, or that you could conclude there's no difference between one bug and another. Observation, like communication, is at minimum a two-party transaction.