To be a fly on Friday, what a day!
Entomologists who came up with "Friday Fly Day" are having a lot of fun posting images on social media of flies on Friday.
If you access WikiHow, "What to Do on a Friday Night," you'll find all kinds of suggestions. For instance:
- Watch a movie (that's do-able)
- Challenge friends to a game night (does anybody play games any more?)
- Treat yourself to a spa at home (a spa?)
- Give yourself a makeover (a what?)
- Cook a nice meal (how nice is nice?)
- Treat yourself to cocktail (some of us prefer coffee or water)
- Read a book or a magazine (did that, already)
- Start a new hobby (who has the time? Other hobbies are failing)
- Pamper your pet (he's already pampered; he has his own Facebook page, Vito and His Friends)
- Throw a karaoke or dance party (the neighbors would not like that)
- Work on an artistic or crafty project (some of us are crafty but not artistic)
- Start a bonfire (not in California!)
- Do something physically active (stationary bikes are good)
- and on and on and on....
Nowhere, but nowhere, does it say to take an image of a fly on Friday.
It doesn't have to be a fly on a wall. It can be a fly on a flower. But it has to be a fly on a Friday.
This one is a syrphid fly, aka flower fly or hover fly (and often mistaken for a honey bee) foraging on a blanket flower, or Gaillardia.
Gaillardia, a genus in the sunflower family, Asteraceae, is named for an 18th century French magistrate/botanist, Maître Gaillard de Charentonneau.
Maître Gaillard de Charentonneau, no doubt, never observed Friday Fly Day but being a botanist, he probably loved pollinators.
Cheers to a syrphid fly on "his" flower. (Well, it is a pollinator)
It's Friday Fly Day!
And what better day than a Friday to post an image of a syrphid fly nectaring on a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii? We all need "pretty" in our lives.
Syrphid flies, also known as "flower flies" and "hover flies," are pollinators that hover over a blossom before touching down.
"Most species are predaceous, most commonly on aphids or mealybugs," according to the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. "Some syrphids prey on ants, caterpillars, froghoppers, psyllids, scales, other insects, or mites. About 100 to 400 aphids can be fed upon by each aphid-feeding larva before it pupates, but this varies by the mature size of the syrphid relative to the aphids' size."
Folks who assume that every critter they see in, on, or around a flower is a honey bee should know a couple of distinguishing features: bees don't hover, and syrphids have only one pair of wings, while bees have two. "Their large eyes and short antenna also give them away," notes Kelly Rourke in her U.S. Forest Service article on "Syrphid Fly (Sphaerophoria philanthus). "The absence of pollinium, or pollen sacs, is more difficult to see, but is another difference from a bee. Of the nearly 900 species of flower flies (family Syrphidae) in North America, most have yellow and black stripes."
Happy Friday Fly Day!
When a house is a home...
Take the case of a syrphid fly, aka hover fly or flower fly. It's a cold and windy day, and it's tucked in the folds of a rock purslane, Calandrinia grandiflora, in Vacaville, Calif.
It's sipping nectar, and rotating its colorful little body to gather more nectar and glean more sun.
The syrphid fly is often mistaken for a honey bee. Both are pollinators.
Three of the easiest ways to differentiate a fly from a bee:
- A fly has one set of wings. A bee has two sets.
- A fly has short, stubby antennae. A honey bee doesn't.
- A fly has no corbicula or pollen basket. A honey bee (worker bee) does.
Last year Joanna Klein posted an interactive feature in the New York Times, wondering how we can save the bees if we don't recognize them. She asked "Can You Pick the Bees Out of This Insect Lineup?" and posted an image of bees and wanna-be bees.
Find the flies.
And then access a PDF on flower flies on the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources website to learn more about them. Authored by lead author/entomologist Robert Bugg, it's titled "Flower Flies (Syrphidae) and Other Biological Control Agents for Aphids in Vegetable Crops."/span>
The Frit and the fly...or the butterfly and the fly...
That would be the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) and the syrphid fly (family Syrphidae), aka flower fly or hover fly.
They meet on a beautiful autumn day on an equally beautiful Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia). The season is winding down.
"I was here first!" the Gulf Frit proclaims.
"I was here second!" the fly says.
The yellow-and-black striped fly, masquerading as a bee, is determined to sip some nectar. It edges closer and closer.
The newly eclosed butterfly simply wants to dry its wings before taking off.
The fly is more persistent. And more hungry.
The fly brushes the butterfly. The butterfly takes flight.
Score: Fly: 1; Butterfly, 0.
A fly, oh, my!
On the approval scale, they don't rank nearly as high as honey bees, but some are often mistaken for them.
Take the Eristalis stipator, which belongs to the family Syrphidae, the hover flies.
It's about the same size as a honey bee and it's a pollinator.
We recently spotted this one--a female Eristalis stipator, as identified by senior insect biosystematist Martin Hauser of the California Department of Food and Agriculture--nectaring on tropical milkweed, Asclepias curassavica. The colors are striking--both the colors of the fly and the flowers. It's a striped fly, with black and white bands, one superimposed gold band, and buff-colored hairs piled on the thorax. And the showy flower, aka "blood flower," is red-orange with a yellow hood.
Eristalis is a large genus of approximately 99 species. The Eristalis stipator has no common name, so we just call it Eristalis stipator.
Or a fly.