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Female Striped Horse Fly (Tabanus lineola) | by Thomas Shahan
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Female Striped Horse Fly (Tabanus lineola)

Click here to view the larger image as Flickr's resizing creates moiré artifacts!


I'm not sure if a fly can be any more beautiful than a female Striped Horse Fly (Tabanus lineola) and I doubt I could have found a more perfect specimen. I've been planning this shot for years now, and as I left the house heading out to my favorite bug spot the day that I took this photo, I thought to myself "how great would it be if I could find a cooperative T. lineola female today?"


And sure enough - almost as soon as I arrived at the park, I spotted a large female cleaning her eyes on the railing of the bridge I find salticids on! She was quite battleworn and uncooperative, and I gave up chasing her around pretty quickly. Soon after, another female landed nearby (the fly pictured above and below), and instantly caught my eye - she was smaller and cleaner with brighter, more deeply saturated eyes. I proceeded to photograph her from just about every imaginable angle and magnification I am capable of, and she sat cooperatively the entire time despite grooming her eyes and wandering about a bit.


It's worth noting that male Tabanids are completely harmless as they merely feed on nectar and pollen. It's the females (like the beauty above) that feed off vertebrate blood and have those wonderfully vicious scissor-like mouthparts that easily rip through human flesh. Despite the bad reputation, I haven't been bitten by one of these radiant flies yet - although that would make for a great photo should it ever happen. To determine the gender of large Tabanids - the males have compound eyes that touch in the center of the head (As seen here.)


To read more about the compound eyes of arthropods check out the Wikipedia page (featuring one of my photographs as an illustration) on ommatidium here:


...and it's possible I may upload some new artwork on my other account soon:




The image above is a manual focus stack of two images taken at f/11 with an SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/2.0 prime lens reversed to a set of extension tubes on a Pentax K200D.


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Taken on June 8, 2010