Up close with a drone fly

i-db48df7816053d03037485bc14139bb8-Eristalis2.jpg

Eristalis, the drone fly
Urbana, Illinois

Easily mistaken for a bee, Eristalis is in fact a clever mimic capable of luring many an unsuspecting observer into the land of amusing taxonomy fail.

But the structure of the antennae, the broad attachment of the abdomen to the thorax, and the presence of only a single pair of wings mark it as a fly.

I took this photo in bright sunlight, although it doesn't look that way from the black backdrop. This dramatic lighting effect is achieved by using such a small aperture (f/13) and a fast shutter speed (1/250 sec) that almost no ambient light reaches the sensor. A small but intense flash directed at just the fly and the flower- but not the garden in the background- provides sufficient illumination for a proper exposure of just the intended subject.


photo details: Canon EOS 7D camera

Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens

ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec


More like this

Two male Rhagoletis walnut flies joust on an artificial walnut in a lab cage at the University of Arizona. What's an artificial walnut? It's a painted ping pong ball. As long as the ball is the right color and shape, the flies apparently don't mind. Biologist Jeremy Davis uses these flies to…
Who says we can't have both beetles and Pheidole on Friday? A South African Sap Beetle (Nitidulidae) reacts to a swarm of Pheidole megacephala by retracting its legs and antennae, leaving little exposed but smooth chitin.  The ants have difficulty finding anything their mandibles can grab, even…
Dineutes sublineatus - whirligig beetle Arizona, USA Whirligigs are masters of the thin interface between air and water, predating on animals caught in the surface tension.   In the field it can be hard to appreciate the finely sculptured details of their bodies, the erratic movements that…
A long-tongued horse fly takes a sip of nectar in Arizona's Chiricahua mountains. 100% crop of the same image. photo details: Canon 65mm MP-E 1-5x  macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper

Nice photo, as always! How did you manage that without it buzzing off on you? Hehe.

True story:
Back in the early '80s I'm taking a entomology course. This week, the subject is "bee mimics". It's Thursday; fourth day of the Dips unit. I'm looking thru a binoc scope at a "Bombyliid" (stoned, as usual in those times) and I notice that it has four wings. Narrow waist. Triangular head with geniculate antennae. Tibial scopa. I look up. Just at that moment, the professor is walking by. I say "What's this bee doing in your fly collection?" (He gives me the derisive snort.) I say "It's got four wings." He pauses, sits, looks thru the scope. Sits up. Looks at me. Looks thru the scope again. Walks to the front of the class and announces: "Specimen X, labelled as a Bombyliid, is actually a bee." The other students gawk at me. I say "It's a bee that mimics bee mimics." Several students later confessed to me that they had also thought it was a bee. Years later, that professor was instrumental in getting me into grad school, despite my stoner GPA (I still haven't figured out whether I should thank him).
D.J. Lactin. Ph.D., Entomology.

Hello Alex,

It seems that i would be getting awesome information from your blog. It is really very exciting for me. The above pic of drone is really very beautiful.

Hey just read the article. I live in Lexington NC and have stumbled across an old tub full of the drone fly larvae. Need i say it is dead of winter here and they are very active right now. Crazy huh?

By David See (not verified) on 11 Dec 2011 #permalink