Bee-mimic Assassin

I don’t often get the chance to photograph robber flies (Asilidae), so it was nice to have another opportunity this year during a visit to Halfmoon Lake Natural Area on the 13 June.

aphria sp. robber fly.

Laphria sp. robber fly, showing a fine mystax, the bristly hairs on the face which are believed to help protect it from injury when it tackles its prey.

I had just returned to my feet after crouching to photograph an awkwardly positioned jumping spider when I noticed the robber fly sitting on a leaf on the other side of the path. The camera had the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro lens attached, which magnifies from 1 to 5x, and is not the ideal lens for this size of an insect, which has the bulk  (and fuzziness) of a bumblebee. At about 18mm long, I could not ‘fit’ this fly easily onto the crop-sensor camera I was using (Canon 70D), even at the minimum magnification setting, so I opted to frame for a portrait.  I had the chance for two shots only, and the first was hopelessly out of focus. Because all the details required are not visible in this photo, an exact ID is not possible, but Dr Robert Cannings believes it is probably  L. posticata.

Posted in Alberta, Asilidae, Canada, Canon, Diptera, Equipment, Insect, Lenses, macro, MP-E65, Predator, Season, Spring Tagged , , |

Scheduled Events for 2016

Please click on links for more information.

9 – 23 July (Saturdays). Nature Photography workshop at MacEwan University.

6 August. Bug Jamboree at the Ellis Bird Farm.

8 August. Macro Photography in the Garden workshop at Ellis Bird Farm.

21 August. Intermediate Macro Photography workshop at Ellis Bird Farm.

Visit the Workshop page for more learning options.

Posted in Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Education, Insect, Inspiration, macro, News, photography, Season, Summer, Workshop Tagged |

Assassin Fly — Cyrtopogon falto

A few days ago while I was walking in the Opal Natural Area, I noticed some movement in a small pit in the sand on the trail. Whatever it was, I could not distinguish it from the bits of burnt wood and pine needles that had also collected there. As I drew closer, it flew away, but I managed to spot where it landed on the trail’s edge. It quickly began the same movement that first caught my eye, and as I crept slowly forward, I saw what it was and what it was doing.

Robber fly, Cyrtopogon falto (Walker, 1849)

A female Robber fly, Cyrtopogon falto (Walker, 1849) laying eggs in the sand.


I love the robber flies (sometimes called Assassin flies) which are as fierce a predator as can be found in the bug world. I rarely see them, and when on the rare occasion I do, I usually have not been able to get a good photograph because they flee so readily. I know this is not always the case, because there are many fine images of robber flies on the web, but I have not had much luck with the few specimens I have come across.

After I managed a few pic’s of the egg-laying process, she moved on again. This time, she took a more typical stance, and allowed me to move in tight to capture her image while she rested,

Robber fly, Cyrtopogon falto (Walker, 1849)

C. falto at rest.

Thanks to John Acorn and Robert Cannings for the ID. Dr. Cannings also provided the following information:

Your robber fly is Cyrtopogon falto, a female. This species ranges across the continent from BC to Nova Scotia. It lives in sandy areas in forests and is the most common Cyrtopogon in the forests of eastern Canada. It’s not quite as common in the West, but there are numbers of records from BC and the prairie provinces. It seems reasonably common in the Edmonton region. Adisoemarto calls it Cyrtopogon distinctitarsus in his 1967 paper on the Asilidae of Alberta, but the correct name is C. falto.

Although a bit dated, the best site for learning more about this family of flies is Robber Flies (Asilidae) by Fritz Geller-Grimm.


Posted in Alberta, Asilidae, Canada, Diptera, Habitat, Insect, macro, Opal Natural Area, photography, Season, Spring Tagged , , |

Exposed by a bee

A short break from the usual invertebrate images…

Wood frog. Lithobates sylvaticus (LeConte, 1825)

Wood frog beside a log.

Normally hard to spot in the duff of theforest floor , wood frogs, Lithobates sylvaticus (LeConte, 1825) usually reveal themselves by movement. This one exposed itself when it jumped up to try to catch a low-flying bumble bee. It failed, but I succeeded. Found in the natural area beside Fultonvale School east of Sherwood Park. 4 June, 2016.

Posted in Alberta, Amphibian, Canada, close-up, photography, Season, Spring, Summer Tagged , , , , |

Pine Tussock Moth Caterpillar (Dasychira grisefacta)

I found this caterpillar trundling along the sidewalk at Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park on 17 May this year. Noticing all the tufts and hairs I immediately thought, “I bet that’s irritating!”, so dropped to my knees, gently brushed it into a plastic vial and took it to the nearest picnic table for a closer look. I had no clue what its natural food plant was, so I took photos of it on a plain white background.

Dorsal view of Dasychira grisefacta

Dorsal view of Dasychira grisefacta

I released it soon after, placing it on a log where it was immediately noticed by an ant, which, ignoring the obvious defences and overwhelming size difference, moved into attack.

Continue reading »

Posted in Alberta, Behaviour, Bugs, Canada, Ethics, Insect, Lepidoptera, macro, National Park, Noctuidae, photography, Season, Spring, White Studio Tagged , , , , , , |