On the 15th of November, about 5 weeks ago, I took a series of photos of the insects nectaring at the last of the aromatic aster blooms. We'd already had a frost or two and the tomato plants had become black mush weeks before, but the aromatic asters just kept valiently going on, day after day after day. I'm sure that most of these insects have since descended into their final cold sleep, but it seemed like a good time to share one of the last warm days of 2013 on my blog....
What do the following insects have in common with each other, besides the plant they are nectaring on and the fact that they were still alive on November 15th?
Guesses, anyone? That's right! The answer is that, despite the striped black and yellow camouflage that some of these guys are wearing, all five of these insects are flies and they are all native pollinators! What's the tell? The give-away to their true identity is their antennae and the single pair of wings. Flies have short, stubby antennae, while bee antennae are longish and usually have a single bend near the forehead. Flies have a single pair of wings, while bees have two pairs, often "stitched" together by tiny hooks to look like one pair, though.
Why do several of these flies look like bees or wasps? The better to fool predators and stay uneaten, of course! Humans aren't the only animals that are wary of getting stung.
Of course there were some true bees nectaring on the asters as well.
As I was snooping into the lives of these 6-legged creatures, I was privileged to see an interesting standoff occur: this tachinid fly landed right in front of the wheel bug, who was obviously interested and had her beak out as if ready to pounce.
I watched for several minutes, though, and the wheelbug never did actually attack the fly.
Each year there is only one generation of wheelbugs, fierce predators from the moment they hatch, so perhaps this old lady was getting ready to peacefully let go, her role in the wheelbug lifecycle now complete.
One other insect caught my eye that day, although this one was no longer alive. This little bee, still festooned with full pollen baskets, had the ill fortune to become a spider's meal.