A Case of Mistaken Identity

small robber fly with gnat prey lying flat on rusted surface

A small robber fly finishes up its meal of a gnat while resting on a rusted hand rail.

The small fly pictured above is one of many such flies you might find basking on rails or fence posts up here in the northern Berkshires. They are quite abundant at my house, on the wooden split rail fence, though I happened to shoot this specimen at Natural Bridge State Park. It is on the corroded hand rail of the foot bridge that crosses in front of the white marble dam, of which the frosty, frothy water pouring over it, the white background represents. This fly is a robber fly, one of my favorite groups of flies, but for some reason a long time ago, I decided that, no, this couldn’t be a robber fly, it was a soldier fly. Well, now I’m deciding I am wrong again. I’d like to think I’m getting better at identifications, but who knows; I can’t even remember why I thought it was a soldier fly in the first place.

Funny enough, as soon as I reverted back to a robber fly identification, I found it much more interesting. I think it was only a temporary bout of inspiration, but it’s funny how anything “new,” even a name, and even one “made from 100% recyclable material” can capture the human imagination.

A couple quick notes: Best guess at a taxonomic ID is subfamily Laphystiinae, and I’m not even going to look at the genuses (genera?), forget about species…. As I hope you noticed, the robber has a meal. The measly gnat is a fine course for the robber, but what’s interesting (to me, anyway) is that the gnat has apparently discharged a string of white pellets, which I’m going to guess are eggs. I wonder, does that give the eggs a fighting chance to hatch?

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