Henrietta, our Stagmomantis limbata praying mantis, perches on a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
She is as patient as she is persistent.
The drone fly, aka syrphid and also known as a hover fly or flower fly, makes the fatal mistake of touching down on the same blossom.
Henrietta eyes it hungrily. Faster than a blink of the eye, she snares it, clutching it between her spiked forelegs.
"Well, of course, I like drone flies," she appears to be saying, between mouthfuls. "Thank you for asking."
Praying mantids are not known for their table manners. It's grab, hold and eat.
The cycle of life in the garden.
They can't drain your bank account. They can't open up new credit cards. They can't get medical treatment on your health insurance.
But they are identity thieves, nonetheless.
Meet the drone fly (Eristalis tenax), often mistaken for a honey bee.
Indeed, it's about the size of a honey bee. In its adult form, it's a pollinator, just like the honey bee.
Unlike a honey bee, however, the drone fly "hovers" over a flower before landing. And unlike a honey bee, the drone fly has one set of wings, large eyes, stubby antennae, and a distinguishing "H" on its abdomen. Robbin Thorp, UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, jokingly calls the drone fly "The H Bee."
Drone fly larvae are known as rattailed maggots. They feed off bacteria in drainage ditches, manure or cess pools, sewers and the like.
The fly belongs to the family Syrphidae (which includes insects commonly known as syrphids, flower flies, and hover flies) in the order, Diptera. The honey bee is Apis mellifera, family Apidae, order Hymenoptera.
One's a fly. One's a bee.
Lately we've been seeing scores of drone flies nectaring on our Mexican sunflower (Tithonia).
Identify thievery does have its advantages. Wary people and predators often shy away from drone flies, thinking they are honey bees and might sting them.
Drone flies can't sting. They can't drain your bank, either.
Everybody eats in the pollinator garden.
Maybe not at the same time, but they all eat.
We noticed a syrphid fly, aka flower fly/hover fly, heading toward a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia) in our pollinator garden. Alas for the fly, it was occupied. Occupied by a honey bee (Apis mellifera).
The honey bee soon buzzed off, and the syrphid claimed it.
The honey bee returned and took a turn.
Then another fly, a drone fly (Eristallis tenax), claimed it.
Interesting that all three are sometimes called "bees," much to the chagrin of entomologists and other scientists. It just goes to prove that not all floral visitors are flies.
- Honey bee: Order, Hymenoptera; Family Apidae
- Syrphid fly: Order, Diptera; Family Syrphidae
- Drone fly: Order, Diptera; Family Syrphidae
But they do have several things in common: (1) they're insects (2) they're pollinators (3) they're hungry and (4) they like nectar just as much as humans like sugar, especially on Halloween. And doesn't orange symbolize Halloween?
Everyone's talking about the drones.
You know, the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Those flying robots cruising over our heads--some with cameras for journalistic and research purposes and others with "need-to-know" purposes.
But in the entomological world, the word "drone" usually means a male honey bee. Or a fly. A drone fly.
To the untrained eye, the common drone fly (Eristalis tenax) looks somewhat like a honey bee, and flies somewhat like a honey bee. It feeds off pollen and nectar.
But the larva is known as a rattailed maggot and feeds off bacteria in drainage ditches, manure or cess pools, sewers and the like.
Like a worker honey bee, the adult drone fly is a pollinator and is often mistaken for a honey bee. Unlike a honey bee, however, it has one set of wings, large eyes, stubby antennae, and a distinguishing "H" on its abdomen.
Coming soon to a field near you--a drone (flying robot) and a drone fly (flying fly). Neither causes diseases nor sucks blood.
The drone fly, aka European hover fly, aka syrphid fly, doesn't get as much press as the other drone, the unmanned aircraft.
But the drone fly (Eristalis tenax), about the size of a honey bee and often mistaken for a honey bee, makes for great in-flight photos. It's sort of the Fat Albert of the Blue Angels.
Last weekend we watched a drone fly (distinguished by the "H" on its abdomen), hovering over an Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule). The rain-battered poppy certainly wouldn't have won any gold awards in a county fair's garden show.
But to the drone fly, bent on foraging, this was gold. It emerged with "gold dust" (pollen) on its head.
Yes, its larva are known as rat-tailed maggots and yes, they frequent manure piles, sewage drainage ditches and other water-polluted areas.
But the adults are pollinators. Significant pollinators, at that.