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Jan 12 2013

Cryptopod: Black and White

I hope you’re not about to tell me this lovely little pollinator is also an invasive species. I think it’s beautiful. That probably means it’s some terrible import killing off all the natives, knowing my attraction to invasives. Sigh.

It was very busy in the beautiful-yet-awful Japanese knotweed a few Septembers ago. I didn’t even see it at first. Hence, the first photo captures only its butt.

Cryptopod I

Cryptopod I

(Its bottom is in the bottom center, if you were having trouble seeing it.)

These were the early days with the Sony Cyber-shot, when I was transitioning from a person who ignored and avoided arthropods to a person who shoves a camera into their dear little faces repeatedly.

Cryptopod II

Cryptopod II

Now, this black and white worker is undeniably beautiful, but the camera taught me something else: flies aren’t so ugly their own selves.

Cryptopod III

Cryptopod III

The pair of them worked very hard on the knotweed that day. Flies don’t get quite the respect they deserve, in my opinion. They’re useful little creatures, as annoying as they can be. Maggots are used for medical treatment, you know. Flies are pollinators, prey, turn shit into soil, among other things… and there’s that lovely iridescence, the brilliant color you may have been too busy swatting to notice.

Interlude with Fly

Interlude with Fly

The camera reveals beauty in the least-regarded creatures. And it shows us faces we aren’t quick enough to see at the time.

Cryptopod IV

Cryptopod IV

We can see the veins in delicate, translucent black wings.

Cryptopod V

Cryptopod V

And see the creature, whole and complete, hard at work helping the plants have sex.

Cryptopod VI

Cryptopod VI

Hopefully it’s not an invasive (although an invasive species pollinating an invasive species would have a certain symmetry to it). I’ve already got a foreboding feeling you’re going to tell me this is a wasp, and I’ll have to go have a minor freak-out two and a half years after the fact. Wasps worry me. But they can be beautiful and peaceful too, so if you break the news to me, I shall bear it as well as I can.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    rq

    First one’s a bald-faced hornet, and the fly is of the Order Calliphoridae (due to the colour and the sheen – one of the first flies to find a dead body; it’s either those, or the Sarcophagidae). Maybe someone can speciate via photo, but this is usually done microscopically, by examining the spiracles of maggots. (Ah, memories of my bachelor’s thesis!)
    Also, yes, some maggots are good for wound-cleaning (and, in fact, beneficial), but species must not be mixed up. The wrong kind will eat not only dead tissue but also live tissue (see: screwworm flies), and can cause the death of livestock, if not caught in time!

    1. 1.1
      steveinmi

      Thank you for the ID! I’ve seen the cool-looking wasp around here but have never gotten a mug shot to track him down. I love this critter’s deco-sparse look!

    2. 1.2
      heliconia

      Beat me to it (at least, I know the hornet, but not the fly). No hoverfly! My hoverfly tale must remain untold!

      1. rq

        Tell it anyway! Otherwise we have to wait months until Dana catches one on camera (spring/summer). ;)

        1. heliconia

          Alrighty. Once upon a time, Heliconia was a minion for someone’s research project on birds in Peru. We lived in tents on the property of a tourist lodge in the cloud forest. Our facilities included running (though not heated) water; there were two toilets and a big tub with a tap where we could wash our clothes (and the lodge washed all its linens—by hand!).

          It was early in the rainy season, so there’d be rain showers almost every day, but they tended to be short and followed by sun. As soon as the sun came out, so did all the insects. And for some reason, our laundry/toilet area attracted a huge swarm of hoverflies, every single time. These hoverflies do in fact live up to their name; thousands of them would just hover in tight formation, all facing the same direction, all around the bathrooms. Thousands more landed on the tub, the toilets, the bathroom floors, and often your arms if you stood still. Their numbers were large enough that a given surface was often more insect than not. I think they were either drinking water or eating up minerals left as it dried. Whenever you wanted to use the toilets, you had to wave your arms and legs around for half a minute to get all the flies to leave, then close the door and hope they didn’t fly over or under it!

          The locals who ran the lodge claimed the hoverflies would bite, but they never bit any of us. They just…swarmed ominously. If you watched them for long enough, you’d notice that they were quite pretty—their abdomens are yellow- and blue-striped—and that there were probably several species present—a noticeable minority were bronze-coloured and others were larger and duller yellow. (I’ve begun to suspect that they were hypnotizing us into complacency, and that they are planning a hostile takeover, but perhaps the jungle has addled my mind. Anyways, here is a picture of a few of the enemy air force tasting my backpack.)

          1. rq

            If it was spiders, I’d reconsider research in Peru. :) I doubt they were planning a hostile takeover. They probably thought they were hypnotizing all those hairless pink apes into leaving more of that wonderful aromatic stuff behind. ;)
            And a nice photo, beautiful flies!

    3. 1.3
      rq

      And I meant Family, not Order… Thanks, Trebuchet, for reminding me!

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    Thanks fot the ID, RQ. I didn’t get much farther than “hymenoptera”.

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    And for Dana: Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps, etc.) are easy to spot. Just look for the “wasp waist “.

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