Currently viewing the category: "Flies"
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Karner blue butterfly
Geographic location of the bug:  Albany Pine Bush, Albany, NY
Date: 05/27/2020
Time: 05:43 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi What’s that Bug!
Here’s a mystery for you. I’m quite certain this is a Karner blue butterfly, Plebejus melissa samuelis. You may be aware that our Albany Pine Bush in upstate New York is one of the few habitats this endangered subspecies can thrive, since its larvae feed only on the wild blue lupine that grows here. I saw quite a few Karner blues out among the lupines on this visit! None of our other local blues have that much orange along the wing, so it has to be a Karner.
The mystery: what the heck is going on with its abdomen? What is that orange stuff at the end? I thought it might be laying an egg, but as far as I can tell their eggs are light gray or white, not orange. And anyway it’s not on a lupine–I think the plant is a raspberry or blackberry. It stayed in this position for a couple of minutes before fluttering off, and I didn’t realize there was anything weird until I looked at the photos.
I’ll also include a better image of a different individual for your enjoyment. This little guy seemed to be more interested in lapping up my sweat than anything else–I tried to coax it onto a lupine, but it wouldn’t leave!
How you want your letter signed:  Susan B.

Male Karner Blue exposing his genitalia

Dear Susan,
Though we are quite excited to post your Karner Blue images, we will start with the mystery.  We don’t know what that is, but we suspect it is not a good thing.  We suspect this might be evidence of parasitism, possibly Dipteran, meaning a type of fly.  Though we don’t often site Wikipedia, it does provide this information “A tachinid fly,
Aplomya theclarum, has also been listed as a Karner blue butterfly parasite.”*  We will attempt to get a second opinion on this matter.  Meanwhile, we really are thrilled with your images of Karner Blues.  Not only was it described by one of Daniel’s favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov, it is a new species for our site that currently contains over postings. 

Karner Blue

*Haack, Robert A. (1993). “The endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae): biology, management considerations, and data gaps”. In Gillespie, Andrew R.; Parker, George R.; Pope, Phillip E. (eds.). Proceedings, 9th central hardwood forest conference; 1993 March 8–10; West Lafayette, IN. Gen. Tech. Rep. NC-161. St. Paul, MN: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, North Central Forest Experiment Station. pp. 83–100.

Thank you so much for your reply! I was pretty excited to spot so many Karner blues that day—usually I don’t get out to the Pine Bush until later in the year, when they are scarcer. I’ll be going back early in the morning to see if I can catch them basking with their wings open.
That’s a good thought that the orange mass may be parasites. I hadn’t even considered that it could be somebody else’s eggs. I’ve sent the image along to the staff at the Albany Pine Bush to see if they can identify it for sure, and also so that they can document it, since they monitor all the happenings with the wildlife there.
Susan B.
Karner blue update—I heard back from the entomologist at the Albany Pine Bush regarding the weird orange mass on my Karner blue butterfly. Here’s her response (with her permission to share):
“Hi Susan,
Thanks for sending along the images! I have to tell you, what you are seeing there at the end of the abdomen is rated PG-13. What you captured is the genitalia of a male karner. They don’t usually flash them like that, it is unusual to see as they are usually kept internally until mating. An interesting thing to document, for sure! Thanks again for sharing.
Best,
Dillon”
What a relief to hear that I was only witnessing a bit of lepidopteran exhibitionism, and not a parasite infestation (fascinating though that would be)!
-Susan B.

Thanks for the fascinating update Susan.  It is interesting that Nabokov classified many of the Blues using a theoretical taxonomy that he devised after dissecting the genitalia of museum specimens.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject (please be succinct, descriptive and specific):  children’s book with male horsefly character
Date: 02/22/2020
Time: 04:08 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi – I’m writing a children’s book and one of the main characters is a male horsefly. I’ve been trying to find what types of plants male horseflies (specifically in the area of Kentucky) would be most attracted to.  I haven’t been able to find anything so far.  Any help would be appreciated.  Thank you.  Diana Wilburn

Male Black Horse Fly on Corn Leaf

Dear Diana,
Most of the images we have of male Horse Flies were not taken on plants, however, we did locate an image in our archives of a male Black Horse fly from nearby Indiana that was taken on the leaf of a corn plant.  According to BugGuide:  “adult females feed on vertebrate blood, usually of warm-blooded animals; males (also females in a few spp. in all 3 subfamilies) visit flowers.”  Of the Black Horse Fly,
Tabanus atratus, BugGuide notes:  “males, which lack mandibles, feed on nectar and plant juices.”  We suspect umble-shaped flowers in the family Apiaceae including parsley, carrots, dill and Queen Anne’s lace that attract many pollinating flies would also be a choice for Horse Flies, and we have images in our archive showing a Male Horse Fly (Hybomitra cincta) on a parsley blossom.  Other images we located online of male Horse Flies feeding on other umble blossoms include Nature Picture Library where it is on fennel, iStock Getty Images where the male Horse Fly is feeding on Hogweed, and Wikipedia where it states:  “they mainly feed on nectar of flowers (especially of Apiaceae species).”  Composite flowers in the family Asteraceae, are also good food sources including this Adobe Stock Images example of a male Horse Fly on Goldenrod or this Alamy image of a male Horse Fly on a coneflower.

Male Horse Fly on Parsley

Dear Daniel,
Wow what a detailed answer, thank you.  This is so helpful.
I also ordered a copy of your book.  Amazing what you learn and get interested in when you take a deep dive into something.
If/ when this books ends going to print I’ll definitely send a copy.
Thanks again
Diana
Good Luck with your book Diana.  We are glad we were helpful.

 

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  What is this found in clarinda
Geographic location of the bug:  Clarinda victoria
Date: 02/04/2020
Time: 07:33 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  My wife found this at the park. Never seen it before in my life. What on earth is it?
How you want your letter signed:  Mik

Unknown Robber Fly

Dear Mik,
This is a predatory Robber Fly in the family Asilidae, but we are uncertain of the species.  There are many species pictured on the Brisbane Insect site.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Bristle Fly
Geographic location of the bug:  Oakdale NSW
Date: 02/02/2020
Time: 06:58 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Can you please confirm if the attached image is of a Bristle fly. The markings are slightly different than those on your website.
How you want your letter signed:  Bristle fly?

Tachinid Fly

This is a Tachinid Fly in the family Tachinidae, and some species are known as Bristle Flies because of the course hairs that cover the abdomen of many species.  We believe your individual might be Formosia speciosa which is pictured on Brisbane Insects.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Fly?
Geographic location of the bug:  Atlanta, Georgia
Date: 01/03/2020
Time: 02:55 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Is this a fly of some sort?
How you want your letter signed:  Bruce Carlson

Stilt Legged Fly

Dear Bruce,
This is a gorgeous image of a Stilt Legged Fly in the family Micropezidae.  We believe we have correctly identified it as 
Rainieria antennaepes thanks to this BugGuide image.  Of the family, BugGuide notes “Adults of some species are attracted to rotting fruit or dung; in other species adults are predaceous; larvae saprophagous.”  Your image has documented feeding, though we are not certain what has comprised the meal, though based on the BugGuide food information, either “rotting fruit or dung” appears to be a possibility.

Thanks Dan for the identification.  I should have mentioned in my message that my wife took the photograph, but she’s happy to see it posted on your website!
Bruce Carlson

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject:  Blue robber fly?
Geographic location of the bug:  Mudgee, nsw
Date: 01/01/2020
Time: 03:20 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I saw anothe post with a very similar fly and you said it was an exciting find, so I thought I’d send you mine. Never seen one before, I assume it’s come to escape the fires.
How you want your letter signed:  Cheers, Jeremy.

Giant Blue Robber Fly

Dear Jeremy,
We always love posting excellent images of large Robber Flies, arguably among the most adept winged insect predators.  We believe you are correct that this is a Giant Blue Robber Fly,
Blepharotes spendidissimus, based on images posted online.  The human finger for scale is a nice addition.  We are well aware of the horrific fires currently burning in Australia.

Giant Blue Robber Fly

Giant Blue Robber Fly

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination