Thick Head, Thin Waist (or What’s Not In a Name)

thick-headed fly mimics thread-waisted wasp

Nikola’s recent post – he is one of the best insect macro photographers on Flickr and I imagine anywhere; if you haven’t seen his stuff, I highly recommend checking it out – inspired me to post some photos I have had in my back pocket since last November. This thick-headed fly, which is likely a mimic of a thread-waisted wasp, was obliviously feeding upon one of these ubiquitous white flowers occurring along the Florida roads. It paid no heed to me long enough to get some shots. I’m not sure why I like these flies so much; part of it is definitely in the name; specific to the wasp mimic (as there are much different-looking thick-headed flies), I think the antennae are wonderful, similar to some wasp and bee mimics of the Asilidae.

I returned to Florida last March and April, and found another one of these flies (different species, bigger in size if memory serves well), but it was not as cooperative as this one. It rested on a certain patch of vegetation only to fly away when I came just close enough to get a shot; after a while it would come back to the same general area. We repeated that dance for a while, before it put me out my misery and did not return. Ah, the travails of a bug photographer.

On a side note, it is perhaps no coincidence I was moved to post this would-be wasp today, since the wasp has been the symbolic avatar of my post-Camp to Belong musings. I wonder where a wasp mimic falls into that kingdom of ideas: a false seeker, a faker for its own small self-preservation? I think perhaps, in my darker, more truthful moments, this would be a self-portrait by proxy. But a fly is a free thing; it is what it is, not what it appears to be. Are people different? Maybe. Maybe we’re simply divorced from the present.

That’s in the darkness. In my lighter, more truthful moments, our fly is still not a wasp; it may fool us, but lest we forget, it seeks the same. An ally, a friend, how one protects us by sharing their light like a raincoat in the storm; how they show us the best of who we are. How they help us find ourselves.

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