Sometimes insects in the desert have a hard time finding one another. The area is vast and open, so some insects look for landmarks where they congregate to mate, such as tall hills:
This particular hill has several insects that “hilltop,” including tarantula hawks and bot flies. It’s always fun to climb up there and watch the hilltoppers buzzing around looking for mates!
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17 thoughts on “Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Hilltopping”
THis is such a foreign landscape to me, i fully expect at least one tired cowboy on his horse swatting at flies, or rather hilltop insects! c
Ha ha! It probably had cowboys on it at some point! There’s a movie studio that did a ton of westerns just a few miles away. :)
Bot flies? BOT FLIES?! As in the flies that lay their eggs in human flesh??? I thought those were only found in the tropics!
There are many different species of bot flies, with only 1 species (Dermatobia hominis) normally being found on/in humans in the tropics. The rest of the family are parasites of various other mammals and are relatively common yet rarely observed. Additionally, they don’t all burrow within the skin, with the larvae of some species developing in the nasal cavaties of deer or sheep, and there is even one species that will develop inside the digestive tract of horses. Another example of a fascinating group of flies given a bad name by a single species and graphic YouTube videos…
Oh. Whew. When I told took tropical biology in college my professor enjoyed terrifying us with parasite stories, so that’s where my brain immediately went.
Morgan’s right – the local bot flies don’t infect humans. Instead they go for jackrabbits and packrats.
The local bot flies infect jackrabbits and packrats. We’ve got a preserved, infected packrats in my dept, and the parasites are pretty impressive!
Finding an active hilltop can lead to some amazing fly collecting! If you’re there at the right time and lucky, you can usually bring in multiple species of normally hard to find parasitoid flies, like bot flies, tachinids, thick-headed flies (Conopidae) and big-headed flies (Pipunculidae). I’m not really sure why so many parasitoids have converged on hilltopping as the place to date, but it can make for an exciting morning as a fly collector!
Yeah, there’s some good stuff up there! I haven’t done much collecting there though…
I was afraid it was going to be about habitat destruction. I’m so glad it was a happy topic. And I learned something!
Nope, a nice positive post this time!
I love the cactus in the middle of the photo, looks so distinguished!
Agreed! They’re darned dignified cacti in general.
when in costa rica 2 years ago, my dear friend passed cutoms with a bot fly in back and the eggs eventually depositied in her flesh. they had to be removed surgically. she went 4 months without knowing what was causing the pain…. terrible thing. i felt so badly for her suffering.
It happens. They’re kinda gross, especially if you’re not into bugs, but they’re still really cool flies! The species here infects jackrabbits and packrats, so they’re not the same kind your friend got.
i meant in her back… yea. it’s one of those terror stories and i wouldn’t have believed it had i not seen it with my own eyes.
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