Prey bee mine

Promachus hinei preying upon a small carpenter bee

Promachus hinei preying upon a small carpenter bee

Robber flies of the genus Promachus – the so-called “giant robber flies” – are among the more conspicuous and fearless predators seen in Missouri’s glades. Able to capture almost any flying insect regardless of size, this individual – seen at Long Bald Glade Natural Area in Caney Mountain Conservation Area – was found snacking on what, according to my hymenopterist friend Mike Arduser, appears to be a female individual of the genus Ceratina (the so-called small carpenter bees in the family Apidae). Of the three “tiger-striped” (referring to the yellow and black striping of the abdomen) species of Promachus in the eastern U.S. species, P. hinei is the most common in Missouri. It is distinguished from the more southeastern P. rufipes by its reddish versus black femora and from the more northern P. vertebratus by the larger dark areas dorsally on the abdominal segments and distinctly contrasting two-toned legs. Despite their common name and impressive size, however, they are not the largest robber flies that can be seen in these glades…

Photo details: Canon 100mm macro lens on Canon EOS 50D (manual mode), ISO-100, 1/250 sec, f/13, MT-24EX flash 1/4 power through diffuser caps.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
This entry was posted in Apidae, Asilidae, Diptera, Hymenoptera and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Prey bee mine

  1. jason says:

    Great shot! I love these critters. I think we have half a dozen or so Promachus species in Texas, but this is the one I see most. And they’re quite brave: they have no problem going after hummingbirds, let alone anything else that moves.

    • Thanks, Jason – these guys are quite photogenic. I seem to encounter a lot of robbers in the same habitats that my beloved tigers frequent. They’ll even nab one every now and then (the predator, thus, becomes the prey).

  2. MObugs41 says:

    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Great shot Ted. I love flies, they are one of my favorites to photograph, their eyes are wonderful! I love this little guys “Papa Smurf” mustache.

  3. troymullens says:

    Ditto the great photo. I liked this post a lot. Nice work and thanks for the information.

    Thanks for the visit and nice comment.

    The False Gaura has only been reported in two counties along the southern border of Missouri. If you find one elsewhere, report it to the USDA Plant Database.

    Here’s a link to the southern region of Missouri with some very interesting information, the White River Hills region is included: Ozark Region. Let me know if you find this of any interest.

    Come visit,

    • Hi Troy – thanks, and it’s my pleasure.

      Very nice article on the Ozarks. It’s hard to choose what part of Missouri I like most, but the White River Hills have to be right up there near the top of the list alongside the St. Francois Mountains.

      In your neck of the woods, the “Hill Country” stretching from Austin down to San Antonio and west to Uvalde reminds me so much of the Ozark Highlands. I’ve done quite a bit of bug collecting there – great stuff!

  4. Moe says:

    Great shots! I’ve just recently discovered robber flies and they truly are cool bugs.

  5. This photo left us breathless. You’ve done amazing things with your camera — that macros lens is serving you well! We especially appreciate it when moments of ‘drama’ like this can be captured. Way to take us right into the insect world!

  6. Hi Ted

    This robbery fly certainly has huge eyeballs! Stunning photography! Just how do you do it?

    PS Have you heard from Chuck Bellamy lately?

    Best regards, Dr T

    • Hi Trevor – thanks! Lighting is the key. I use a twin flash unit – the multidirectionality of the light prevents sharp shadows, but it is a more lively lighting than a traditional ring flash. Other than that, just make sure you get the eye in focus.

      Chuck and I chat frequently – he seems to be getting around pretty well these days, as he recently returned from a collecting trip to northern Mexico.


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