Murder In Rattlesnake Canyon

Reminder:  You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it.  Click again for a full-screen image.

Rene Clark and I went for a hike at Sabino Canyon early this morning.  We wandered around for a while and eventually wound up in Rattlesnake Canyon, one of the many smaller side canyons that feed into Sabino Canyon.  We hadn’t gone too far when Rene said: “Steve, this might be something you’d want to photograph.”

Was it ever!  Rene had found a Robber Fly, a/k/a Assassin Fly, with prey.  Robber Flies are predatory flies organized into many species, with a worldwide distribution.  There is no fiercer predator in the insect world.  They combine the flying skills and the ability to seize prey on the wing of Peregrine Falcons with the venomous attributes of rattlesnakes, which is to say that these are truly ferocious insects.

A Robber Fly specializes in capturing its prey in flight.  Like a falcon, it hunts from a perch, scanning the local environment for flying insects that it can attack.  It has absolutely superb vision, courtesy of a gigantic pair of compound eyes.  Each Robber Fly comes equipped with a proboscis that resembles a combination chisel/hypodermic needle.  With that, it can punch through the exoskeleton of anything that it captures.  It injects venom into its victim’s body.  The venom contains a potent neurotoxin that rapidly dispatches the victim.  It also contains digestive enzymes that quickly break down the internal parts of the victim into fluid.  The Robber Fly then drinks its meal at its leisure.

This fly had captured a bee and was calmly enjoying it as I photographed it.

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It was definitely aware of my presence because it shifted position to observe me as I photographed it.  It didn’t seem to mind my camera and flash.

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Which is a good thing.  Robber flies rarely bite people, but when they do, their bites are supposed to be extremely painful.

A note about last night’s post.  It turns out that I misidentified the “female” Red-winged Blackbird in the post.  Sam Angevine advised me last night that my “female” is actually an immature male.  He’s right, I should have noticed the faint red epaulets on the youngster’s wings.  Immature males look a lot like females in this species but those epaulets are a definite tell.  Ah, well, there were other females at the scene scoping out the males.  This “female” was probably thinking that it wouldn’t be too long before he could join the party.

Tonight’s images were made with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 125, M setting, f18 @ 1/160.

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2 responses to “Murder In Rattlesnake Canyon”

  1. Sue says :

    Catchy title, informative, and really illustrates the meaning of the word “bugeyed”.

  2. Liesl Kii says :

    This is truly an amazing photograph!

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