Archive for the ‘Sarcophagide’ Tag



Day by day the rains lessen.  Day by day the sun is breaking through a little more, warming up the ground and consequently the air.  Evaporation causes the relative humidity to rise.  We are almost there, almost into the dry season.  It won’t be long before we start to lament the lack of precipitation but let us at least enjoy the first few dry weeks without complaint.  There have now been 3 dry sunny days in succession.  It doesn’t take long for the muddy trails to start drying out.

Biodiversity Most Ordinary: Net-winged Planthopper

There are certain insects that you see regularly in a variety of locations but they don’t excite your interest because there is nothing outstanding about them; no bright color, no unusual shape or weird behavior.  They are just a general insect.

Net-winged Planthoppers fall into this category of ordinary.  I see them but I am never inspired to point the lens in their direction.  Last week as I was searching the vegetation, scrutinizing the grass blades and poking around on the ground looking for a subject that I may have never seen before, one of the Net-winged Planthoppers landed in front of me.  Well here was an opportunity to photograph something even if the subject was mundane.

I am probably doing the Net-winged Planthopper a disservice as they are as important as everything else within the complex system of interactions that make up the tropical rainforest ecosystem.  They are true bugs and belong in the homopteran family: Nogodinidae, which taxonomically is regarded as being Neotropical.  Information regarding their life histories are non-existent at worst to scarce at best.  I think this individual is one of the 3 known Biollyana species, possibly Biolleyana costalis.  They are plant sap feeders and use the long piercing mouthparts to tap into the plant’s vascular system.

Net-winged Planthopper, (Bolleyana costalis)

Net-winged Planthopper, (Bolleyana costalis)

There are 22 families of planthoppers consisting of approximately 12, 500 species.  Despite their method of feeding, very few of them are vectors for plant borne diseases and are not especially known as agricultural pests.

Biodiversity Most Ordinary: Better Red Than Dead

Not too far from the Net-winged Planthopper I found another puzzling creature.  My initial thought was that this is a Hemipteran nymph, probably Heteroptera but as to what family I do not know.

What caught my eye was the fact that this nymph was colored fiery red and I found it on a bright red Heliconia flower.  This invites certain questions.  Red is a commonly found color used by plants for their flowers in a tropical rainforest.  Red is the complementary color to green.  It is a very hot color whereas green is very cool color.  Red will vividly stand out from a surrounding sea of green vegetation.  Many pollinators have acute color vision and will spot the potential food source, (normally nectar), advertised by the plant.  The payback is the transference of pollen and therefore the completion of reproduction for the stationary plant.

Bright Red nymph of Flag-legged Bug sp

Flag-legged Bug Nymph

So does the adult bug select for red flowers on which to lay its eggs and the sap-sucking nymph that hatches is red and blends in with its host plant?  Might it be that the nymph upon hatching feeds on the plant tissue and takes in the plants red pigments such as carotenes, which it then stores to subsequently give it the matching color?  It may well be that is was simply a coincidence and the red nymph just happened to be on a red flower, there are many red heteropteran nymphs that feed on green leaves which defies logic as they then become very visible.  But nature has its ways, which unlike the red nymphs on green leaves, is not always obvious.

Biodiversity Most Ordinary: Tales of the Flesh

Flies are distained by most people, and with good reason; they can be both annoying and dangerous.  For the most part, flies possess wings, atypical for insects – only one pair of wings.  Adult flies are liquid feeders and that embraces just about all liquids, including blood, particularly vertebrate blood.  The larvae feed on liquids and solids.

Excellent fliers with unspeakably bad habits, (from a human point of view), and the ability to travel over long distances give the Diptera, (True Flies), a reputation as one of the most serious vectors of human borne disease and pathogens.

Adult Flesh Fly sitting on twig

Flesh Fly, (Sarcophagidae sp)

Flies require protein in their diet, a first-rate source of which is blood, mammalian blood, human blood.  Mosquitoes are probably the most widely know vectors used by blood living parasites as vectors between species and individuals within a species.  Mosquitoes are not alone, they are joined by Black Flies, Sand Flies and Horse Flies as bringing nuisance, illness and death to their victims.

This Flesh Fly, (Sarcophagidae sp), was perched on a log in the sun.  Flesh Flies could be regarded as a typical dipteran, to look at there is nothing outstanding.  They are not particularly large or have strange anatomical features.  There are about 600 species of Flesh Flies in the neotropics and to the layman they mostly all look the same.

Because they are common and widespread, their unsavory habit of feeding on carrion and excrement as well as associating with humans points the finger of accusation in being the mechanical vector in disease transmission.  Unlike most dipterans Flesh Flies are ovoviviparous, the larvae hatch from the eggs as they are laid.  In some cases this may be an open wound in a mammal where the maggot immediately begins to consume the rotting tissue, hence the name Flesh Fly.  Who knows what this individual might have been carrying on its feet and liquid feeding tongue but I was never going to get close enough to find out.

Diptera: The True Flies   1 comment

Photography is a very popular hobby, it has been since the invention of the first image recording apparatus started to replace portrait artists.  Initially it was beyond the scope of most people’s pockets and outside of professional realms was something of an elitist pastime.  But by the time I was growing up in the sixties many amateurs had at least moved on from a Box Brownie to a Kodak Instamatic.  Now the array of point and shoot pocket cameras is quite staggering, there is every type of model and specification to suit every level of expertise.  In fact I am amazed at just how good the images are when taken with a mobile phone.

Many people have gone a step further and invested in a digital SLR featuring a range of interchangeable lenses allowing them to photograph a wide variety of situations from landscapes, portraits and more specialist areas such as wildlife photography.  A sizable number of visitors to Costa Rica have spent no small sum of money on equipment to record for posterity the beauty of their surroundings and the plants and animals that thrill and delight them during their stay.  Some are obviously more proficient than others. Unfortunately wildlife does not always comply with one’s wishes to photograph it.  But given the technological development of today’s cameras it is hard not to take a good picture of whatever you aim the lens at.

For many it is a case of getting a picture of the bigger creatures such as mammals and birds, occasionally turning their attention to the more gaudily colored butterflies, pretty frogs or ever darting dragonflies.  For me though it has always been the small things.  I love photographing spiders, insects, frogs, lizards and snakes.  The majority of my work is macro photography; if it is more than six to nine inches from in front of the lens I generally won’t take a picture of it.

Everything has its own inherent aesthetic beauty; it’s just that until you take your time to get up close and personal you are probably not going to recognize that.  How many people would give a fly a second glance before swatting it to death?  But seen through a macro lens it takes on a different aspect, the insect almost has character.

Macro photography presents its own set of challenges, not the least of which is how to get close to your subject.  Slow, fluid movement is the essence of success, no fast, jerky moves or you will stand frustrated as that never before seen butterfly disappears.  Patience is a virtue macro photographers need in abundance.  If you have carefully composed your photograph in the frame and go to press the shutter, a leaf falls putting the subject to flight, just wait, it will probably come back.  When I am taking photographs of insects capable of flight, I approach them in a manner resembling some elderly Chinese gentleman doing Tai chi with a camera.

Light, you will probably need lots of light. Capturing the face of an insect at very small apertures allowing greater depth of field, means that little natural light will hit the sensor, more acutely so if you are shooting in deep forest or at night.  I normally carry with me five wireless flash units that allow me to create my own atmospheric lighting, again not easy to set this up if you are trying to capture the image of a flying insect.  But when you do get the shot, the one that reveals all the beauty hidden from the naked eye, it will give you so much satisfaction.  If you haven’t tried it, give it a go.  It is a challenge but one that is worth the result.

Flies Eyes

Veridion-Adventures Diptera True-Flies Nature Photography Travel Adventure Holidays

Diptera – True Flies

I have a fond affinity for flies having spent two years in the ancient oak woodlands of Epping Forest, England monitoring fly populations.  They are regarded by many as, at best, little more than pests, and at worst, winged dispersers of disease, misery, death and decay.  This assertion unfortunately is correct.  Many serious diseases on a global basis are spread by dipteran vectors.  Amongst a host of others, several diseases have had, and continue to exert, an important economic influence on countries, particularly in the tropics; malaria, dengue, yellow fever and sleeping sickness to name but a few.  Mosquitoes are one of the worlds most feared and hated of creatures, being responsible for the spread of major epidemics.  It is hard to believe that something so small could have such a devastating worldwide effect.

Visitors to Cabo Matapalo quite often comment on the lack of biting insects.  Matapalo is situated at the top of a hill so all the rain is runoff, there is no standing water in which they can breed.  Breezes from the ocean and the gulf constantly blow through the grounds.  And finally there are a phenomenal number of insectivorous bats flying at night.  These three factors combine to make it a very pleasant surprise that you are not being eaten alive by midges and mosquitoes.

Veridion-Adventures Flesh-Fly Sacrcophagidae Nature Photography Adventure Travel Holidays

Distinct red eyes of Flesh Fly, (Family: Sarcophagidae).

Flies feed on liquids, all sorts of liquids, everything from nectar to blood.  They have highly developed mouthparts to aid in obtaining a meal.  Flies differ from most other flying insects in having only one pair of wings, the rear set of wings being reduced and modified into a pair of balancing organs called halteres.  The thorax of flies is much larger than other insects as it houses mega flight muscles that allow sustained and powerful flight.

But out of the countless thousands of fly species, not all of them are bad.  There are flies that act as important economic pollinators, there are flies that predate upon other flies.  Despite their terrible reputation, start to look a little more closely and you may be intrigued to find that they have bizarre and fascinating beauty all of their own.

Veridion-Adventures Robber-Fly Asilidae Mallophora-sp Nature Photography Travel Adventure Holidays

Bristling moustache of a Robber Fly, (Mallophora sp)

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