Photo Synthesis

Fire ants aren’t the only formicids that have to worry about parasitoid phorid flies. Many species are hosts to this diverse fly family.

Below are a pair of photos I took recently near Jujuy, Argentina showing a trio of an unidentified Pseudacteon species hovering over an ant nest. One of the flies hit her target, inserting her ovipositor between the ant’s abdominal sclerites.


I don’t say this about all my images, but these shots were truly lucky. The flies are much smaller (1mm) and more erratic than the phorids I posted previously. The oviposition itself took a fraction of a second, and I only realized I’d captured the event when reviewing the images later.

As it turns out, this particular ant (Linepithema oblongum) has never been recorded with phorids. So I’ll likely get a short paper out of this, too, in collaboration with the appropriate phorid experts.

Technical details:

Lens: Canon MP-E 1-5x macro lens
Body: Canon EOS 20D
Flash: Canon MT-24EX twin-flash, diffused through tracing paper
Settings: ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec


  1. #1 John Lynch
    April 14, 2009

    That second photo is absolutely amazing. Mice – albeit lucky – job!

  2. #2 Tom
    April 14, 2009

    Absolutely amazing. Its hard enough to visualise these things by eye! Glad you`ll be getting a paper out of it.

  3. #3 Sam C
    April 14, 2009

    You say you were lucky… but as Gary Player memorably said: “the harder I practise, the luckier I get”!

    Luck nothing, you got that because you put yourself in the right place at the right time with the right equipment set up right.

    Well done!

  4. #4 Anthony
    April 14, 2009

    Your blog has become instantly one of my favorites associated with scienceblogs. Great, great stuff so far.

  5. #5 Henry W. Robison
    April 14, 2009

    Absolutely incredible shots Alex! You are the master! Regarding luck, remember “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

  6. #6 shonny
    April 14, 2009

    Very nice stuff!
    Wish Nikon could get their butt in gear and reintroduce the 200 mm Medical Nikkor. Am drooling just thinking about that lens.

  7. #7 metin2 hieleri
    May 13, 2010

    Absolutely incredible shots Alex! You are the master! Regarding luck, remember “Chance favors the prepared mind.”


  8. #8 Metin2 Hileleri
    November 18, 2011


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