Friday 5: From the Garden

I am in love with the native plant garden at work.  It’s full of beautiful flowers, and those flowers attract a lot of insects, so it’s a fantastic place!  I haul my camera out there and photograph insects sometimes when I have a little downtime and I’ve been surprised by the diversity of insects I’ve come across.  Here are a few of my favorite insects I’ve found out there so far:

Thick Headed Fly

Wasp Mimic

Wasp mimic fly. Family Conopidae, genus Physocephala

This fly is an amazing wasp mimic!  I honestly thought I was photographing a wasp and it wasn’t until I looked at the photo later and noticed that it didn’t have hind wings and had those little knobby structures (the halteres) instead, that I realized it was a fly.  What a beautiful insect!


Bumblebee on Milkweed

Bumblebee on milkweed

Most people probably don’t get as excited about bumblebees as I do, but I have always loved them.  In fact, when I started grad school I wanted to work with one of two insects: dragonflies or bumblebees.  I didn’t end up working on either, but that didn’t diminish my love for bumblebees one bit.  It’s so nice to be back in a place where I can see them regularly!  There are tons of bumblebees flying around the garden and if I didn’t have a million other things to do at work I could spend hours and hours watching them buzz about the flowers.

Tumbling Flower Beetle

Tumbling Flower Beetle

Tumbling flower beetle

I’d never seen one of these beetles before I came across this one!  I love the little torpedo shape.  They strike me as particularly cute for some reason.  I know hardly anything about these beetles, but I intend to fix that sorry state of affairs as soon as I have a few spare minutes to delve into some literature.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars

We had these in Arizona and I even knew exactly where I could find them on my campus, but I never quite seemed to make it over there to look for them.  Luckily, we have a woolly pipevine in the garden at work and the swallowtails have been going to town on it.  There are quite a few larvae happily munching away out there, and lots of adults flying about too.  As many of you know, I’m not all that fond of butterflies in general, but there’s something about a beautiful black butterfly that’s irresistible and the velvety texture of the larvae is wonderful.

Delta Flower Beetle

Delta Flower Beetle

Delta flower beetle

I was beyond excited when I saw this beetle!  Those colors make this one of the most beautiful beetles I’ve ever seen and, unfortunately, this is the one and only shot I got of this beetle before it flew away.  I was so happy it was even halfway in focus considering I had about 5 seconds to pull my camera out and get the shot before it flew off.  I really hope I get to see more of these.  What a stunning insect!

Clearly I’m still loving my new job and my new city.  Hope you’re all enjoying exploring my new area with me!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

21 thoughts on “Friday 5: From the Garden

  1. Glad to see others have “favorite” insects. I too love bees and am about to do my second posting of a bee today. Earlier I posted on large milkweed bugs. So many insects, so little time.

  2. Nice shots, I enjoy taking shots in my garden too (though, it’s a vegetable garden not a native garden).

    It looks like your thick-headed fly is a Physocephala sp. (Conopidae).

    • Fun! I am absolutely loving having a garden nearby to photograph in, so I’m glad you have that going for you too. And thanks for the fly ID! I am not a fly person at all, so I appreciate it.

  3. Awesome find with the thick-headed fly (Conopidae) (big headed flies are another family, Pipunculidae). It’s in the genus Physocephala, and might be Physocephala tibialis although I can’t be 100% sure. They are definitely cool flies!

    • Only insects would have a big headed fly AND a thick headed fly… Thanks for the correction – and the more precise identification. I appreciate it! What a fantastic fly! It is so elegant and sleek – beautiful animal.

    • I took all of these photos with my point and shoot, a Canon Powershoot G11. The G12 is the current model and I couldn’t be happier with it – it’s phenomenal! Not super small as far as point and shoots go, but I think the bulk and heft is worth it considering I can get within 2 cm of whatever I want to photograph and the optics are very sharp. I highly recommend it! I also use a Nikon D80 DSLR with the 105mm Nikkor macro lens, often with 2-3 flash units attached. That’s a much bigger investment than the little Canon, but it does take some superb photos.

  4. What a great variety, and beautifully photographed to boot! And isn’t it just fantastic to have this garden–with all its attendant wildlife–right there at work? What a treat.

    • Thanks Jason! And I think I work in the best place ever! There’s a pond, a wetland, a native plant garden, a forested area, a prairie, and a stream all in one area that I can walk around in 10 minutes. It’s fantastic! And there are so many bugs out there too. I’m in heaven!

  5. Definitely Conopidae (note spelling) as Morgan says – they are bad for bumble bees – but I think your bee may be a Xylocopa virginica, the Eastern Carpenter Bee.

    • There are very few conopids relative to the bumblebees out in the garden, so I can’t imagine they’re making that much of a dent in the absolutely enormous population of bees out there. What do they do to hurt the bees? I don’t think the bee is a carpenter bee though. It kinda looks like it might be from this angle, but I got a good 15 other shots of this bee and the abdomen is quite hairy, more like what you’d expect to see on something like a brown belted bumblebee than a carpenter bee. The eastern carpenter bees are supposed to have largely hairless abdomens, and this bee has quite a bit of it.

      • If the abdomen is all black, then it would be a carpenter bee, but if it has bands of coloured hairs, then you’re right in calling it a bumble bee.

        Conopids insert eggs in bumble bees while they are foraging and the larvae eat the bees from the inside out. One interesting aspect of the decline in bumble bees is that they are getting a lot more study then they used to (used to be mostly as optimal foraging or energetics models). The Schmid-Hempel’s have done a lot of work on the European parasites including the conopids and their work implies a strong effect on colonies by reducing number and life span of workers. Michael Otterstatter has found high rates of conopid parasitism in bumble bee workers in AB (>12%), but not much reduction in life span. In any case, if you are finding Physocephala, then some of those bumble bees have maggots.

    • That’s because AZ doesn’t have very many bumblebees for me to talk about! There are very, very few of them in the southern part of the state, and I never saw a single one. I do love that delta flower beetle though. It’s no palo verde beetle, of course, but wow is it pretty!

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