Eyes Of A Killer

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

Yesterday I took a walk in Sabino Canyon.  It was an extremely windy day, with steady winds of 10-15 miles per hour.  It was extremely frustrating for me, as a photographer, because nothing held still long enough for me to get a picture.  Everything was whipping around in the wind.  After hiking around for a couple of hours and photographing nothing, I picked up some debris in one of my shoes.  I sat down on a large rock, pulled the shoe off, and proceeded to brush off my sock.  As I was doing so I looked down and was a bit startled to see a large Robber Fly sitting right next to me, less than two feet away.  The fly had either landed while I was sitting there or had been there previously and was unperturbed by my sharing the rock.

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The fly was quite large, more than an inch in length, and so close to me that I had to slide a few inches away from it in order to get the insect in focus.

I’ve written about Robber Flies, a/k/a Assassin Flies, recently.  They are among the insect world’s most ferocious predators and are superbly equipped to hunt down and kill other insects.  The fly sat there, calmly as I photographed it, plainly indifferent to me.  I bent down in order to get a better camera angle, and when I did, I was surprised to see the fly turn and face me.

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That gave me a great opportunity to make a portrait.  As I was doing so, I let my imagination run away for a moment, and I fantasized that this little killer was coldly appraising me.  In fact, the fly couldn’t have cared less about me.  Robber flies are evolved to go after insects.  They do not view humans as prey and they do not attack people.  That’s not to say that they are defenseless.  If provoked, one of these insects can deliver an extremely painful bite.

There are a couple of features of this insect that I want to point out.  Look at its huge eyes.  Those eyes are second only to dragonflies’ eyes in terms of their size and their range of vision.  This fly has superb vision, among the best of any insect’s vision.   Each of those gigantic compound eyes contain thousands of individual lenses, which show up plainly if you enlarge this image.  Somehow, the fly’s brain melds those thousands of images produced by the individual lenses into one composite image.   Second, look at the fly’s chisel-like proboscis.  It’s the black, wedge-shaped object hanging down from the fly’s face.  That is its killing tool and drinking straw, combined into one instrument.  If it looks formidable, it is because it is.  With that proboscis this fly can punch through the toughest exoskeleton to swiftly paralyze and kill almost any insect.

Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5 L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M Setting, ISO 200, f16 @ 1/160.

One response to “Eyes Of A Killer”

  1. Tom Munson says :

    Terrific images, Steve. Love these Robbers flies.

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