A Costumed Life

Bald-faced Hornet Syrphid Fly Mimic

This weekend or, perhaps, even at this very moment, people far and wide will spend Scary Christmas, er…I mean, Sexy Scary Easter Day — Or — I (really, I do) mean All Hallow’s Eve, a.k.a. Halloween, dressed up as all sorts of fictional characters, from comic book heroes to politicians to offensive ethnic caricatures to eccentric family relatives (well, not sure how popular that last one really is). But for Spilomyia fusca, a fabulous Hover Fly (Family Syrphidae) mimic of the Bald-faced Hornet (Species Dolichovespula maculata), such masquerading is not a grotesque pageant or a bizarre cultural dream enacted over the course of a day or two or three. It is just another day out of all days, and if it happens to be bizarre, it is also incisive to the heart of beauty, and more specifically the beauty of survival.

Bald-faced Hornet

The hornet in question (pictured above) from my personal experience operates with a meandering belligerence: buzzing loudly, flying slowly sometimes and almost erratically, it seems to say, “BzzZZZouttamyway.” I suspect it is truly the giant teddy bear of hornets, but I have no plans to test my theory/fanciful horse poo. The S. fusca remarkably, in addition to its precise physical resemblance to the BFH, also bears the same countenance, especially the slow, heavy buzz of warning. The first time I saw (and heard!) one I could not tell if it was wasp or fly, and going by the sound of it, I didn’t really care either: I wasn’t getting too close to it! (I know, I know, but remember, once a recovering bugphobe….) It is a remarkable adaptation, and I have to think quite an effective one as well. Of course, at heart, it is still a fly — and it does. Away. Not like Sinatra crooned either, i.e. not with me, as the following pictures indicate.

Bald-faced Hornet Syrphid Fly Mimic

Bald-faced Hornet Syrphid Fly Mimic

One day I will attain the coveted S. fusca extreme compound eye close-up, but to date, the above shots (included mainly for comparison reasons) were the best I could get before the bug took off on me. The hornet can be much more accommodating, especially late season while feeding on the rotting pears in my yard.

Bald-faced Hornet

Bald-faced Hornet

These are two magnificent bugs, and I think they teach us a valuable lesson: be who you are, even when that’s not who you are. Or maybe, better yet, do as Daniel Day does: remain in character for the best costume. Although if you are going as a villain (and you know who you are!) you might want to be who you aren’t, even when that’s not who you aren’t. (How’s that for your trick or treat?! BzzzZZZzzz!) I will see if I can dig up some more bug costumes that you should consider for this weekend, but in the meanwhile I dug through the archives to find some respectable shots for a little “Guess the Faker!” A couple cameos (from I believe) a Checkerspot butterfly as well. Enjoy!

Bald-faced Hornet Syrphid Fly Mimic

Bald-faced Hornet Syrphid Fly Mimic

Bald-faced Hornet

Bald-faced Hornet Syrphid Fly Mimic

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5 thoughts on “A Costumed Life

    1. Thanks, yaa khayyii. I assume you are talking about the Syrphid Fly. I think the Baldfaced Hornet is pretty cool too (even if only from an aesthetic standpoint). I’d love to get a shot of them together, though. I think I saw one of each on the same plant this summer but not close enough to get them both at once.

      And as I mentioned, I’d REALLY like to get a close up of S. fusca’s eye(s). They are so cool!

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