The robberfly (diptera family asilidae) is one of the carnivores of the insect world that preys on other insects: exceedingly common throughout the world, it can reach up to an inch in length. The short, strong proboscis you can see at the front of the photo is used to stab and inject victims with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which paralyze and digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied meal through the proboscis. Nature isn't a sentimental place! While dragonflies typically chase down their prey, robberflies sit on a leaf waiting, in order to anticipate their prey's flight path and intercept the prey in mid-flight. They pounce, clasp their prey in their strong legs, inject their venom then take it to a leaf to do the business.
As an evolutionary aid, robber flies have developed characteristically hairy faces -- which helps protect their eyes from the prey that they catch. As with other aerial predators, robberflies have excellent vision, characterized by two conspicuous compound eyes. But, the worst a robber fly could do to a man is administer a pinch with its sharp beak, and then only the largest could! In fact they are almost beneficial as they kill pests: the larvae do not harm crops nor infect plants with disease. That said some consider robber flies a pest as they can feed on bees one by one until they decimate the entire colony! However, they also handle plant pests the same way and are thus also referred to as assassin flies.
Note for the men amongst us, the girls are no walkover! With this insect, the predatory nature of the girls is so dominant that when a males tries to court a female robber fly, if he is not careful, she will fly out, stab him with her proboscis and eat him! It's not the only arthropod that has such behaviour... we've got it relatively easy =).
Technical, preserved specimen, BG output onto SmallHD via HDMI matrix used as background; rear curtain sync .8s exposures; 210 photos into 26 sub stacks using zerene stacker, retouched from Dmap composite, finished off with CS4, NoiseNinja & Topaz Detail. Step size of 40µm, polystyrene chip cone diffuser. Resized to reduce noise. 40 year old Schneider Componon 35 f/4 enlarger lens reversed on slightly more than flat bellows so about 1.5:1 ish; 3 flashes @1/32 perpendicular @2,6 &10 o clock. Took me about 6 hrs or so. As a stack this only gets about a 7/10 from me, boo. I can do better. The eyes could be nicer, and I'm not really convinced by this blue in the background, it's a touch too dark for my personal taste. I wanted to make it a bit menacing but it's sort of in between. Maybe a warm medium brown next time, dunno!
Link to large version: farm8.staticflickr.com/7278/7509916888_a48ca1f16d_o.jpg
UPDATE 2013 - An extreme macro photography learning site to explain the techniques and equipment used for all my macro photos here in Flickr is now ready. To point to a few of the links that people who want to learn this stuff might like to have a browse of:
Focus Stacking, Focus Stack Preparation, Shooting A Stack, Stack Processing, Stack Post Processing, Schneider Kreuznach Componon 28 mm f/4, Schneider Kreuznach Componon 35 mm f/4, Schneider Kreuznach Componon 80 mm f/4, Nikon El-Nikkor 50 mm f/2.8N, Reject Enlarger Lenses, JML Optical 21 mm f/3.5, 20 mm Microfilm f/2.8, Anybrand MP-E 65 Macro Lens, Manual, TTL, Rear Curtain Sync, Extreme Macro Backgrounds, Single Colour Background, The Gradient Background, Adjustable Flash Shoe Mounts, Extension Tubes, Eyepiece, Field Monitor, Flash Bracket, Focusing Helicoid, Holding Tools, Lens Adapters, M42 Iris, Macro Tripod, Making A Macro Beanbag.