Friday, September 26, 2014

Robber Flies

 Blue Jay Barrens had its first frost of 2014 on the morning of September 23.  This is a full month earlier than last year.  Only the most susceptible of creatures showed any signs of damage, but it’s an indication that most of the marvelous insects will soon be disappearing.  While doing some work near the barn, I had this big Robber Fly use the bed of my wheelbarrow as a hunting perch.

 This is a female Promachus hinei, a species that is quite abundant here during late summer.  Robber Flies are predators that sit and wait for suitable prey to fly by.  When a likely victim, such as a smaller sized flying insect, is spotted, the Robber Fly darts out and snatches it from the air.

 Like most flies, the Robber Flies spend a lot of time on personal grooming.  Even while combing its abdominal hair, the fly is alert for potential meals.

 The capture is quicker than my camera.  The Robber Fly is just a loud buzz and a blur as it grabs a passing insect.

 Usually, the predator will bring the catch back to the same resting spot for consumption.  The fly inserts its tube-like mouth into the prey and begins to drink.
 The presence of four wings identifies the victim as a small bee.  Feeding appears to occur rapidly, because this fly ate three of these bees in just a few minutes.  It’s also possible that the fly just can’t resist a fresh kill and discards the previous catch before it is totally drained.  I love watching these big flies hunt.

 Later in the day, I found this medium sized Robber Fly.  This is a species of Diogmites and it tended to perch down low in the vegetation.

 It also frequently changed its hunting perch.

 When it spotted something moving in the air, it quickly turned its head in that direction.

 If the object of interest remained in view, the fly would realign its body with the head.  I think this guy made a catch, but it didn’t return to its perch and I failed to see where it ended up.

Soon after, I located this small robber fly from the genus Holcocephala.  This genus is commonly referred to as a Gnat-Ogre and it may actually have eyes bigger than its belly.  Gnat-Ogres perch on the tips of narrow leaves.  The wind was blowing this little guy around so much that I wondered how it could ever focus on a passing meal.  I’m going to enjoy the insects as much as I can before cold weather closes that particular avenue of pleasure.