Itty bitty tiny little flies

Saturday was my birthday, and for most of my adult life it has been tradition to take the day off for the Annual-Birthday-First-Bug-Collecting-Trip-of-the-Year™.  At Missouri’s middlin’ latitudes, late April is normally a tad early—at least for the groups that interest me, but it’s less about serious bug collecting and more about kicking off the season in a bit of a special way.  Normally if my birthday falls on a weekend, as it did this year, I’ll take off the adjacent weekday instead (it’s not special if you can’t take off any time from work).  However, this year that wasn’t possible due to events at work far beyond my little sphere of influence (conspiracy #1), thus Saturday itself became the planned day.  My family and I celebrated Friday evening so I could have the whole day on Saturday, and as we ate we watched news reports of suspected tornadoes ripping through St. Louis just to our north and a little further south (conspiracy #2).  Forecasts called for rain continuing well into the following week (conspiracy #3), and for the first time in… well… ever, I had the feeling the ABFBCTOTY might be cancelled due to weather.  Waking the next morning, I turned on the television to see precipitation forecasts across the state (1″ in northwest Missouri to 6″ in southeast Missouri) amidst stunning chopper video footage of neighborhoods destroyed and lives turned upside down.

I stopped counting conspiracies and hugged my girls!

That evening, I turned on the mercury vapor lamp over the garage door for the first time since last year to see if anything might show up.  We live in a heavily wooded area of western St. Louis Co. featuring relatively intact mesic upland forest dominated by several oaks, hickories, and sugar maples that harbor a nice diversity of woodboring beetles and treehoppers (though I didn’t expect to see these on this night).  The night was cool and clammy—nothing but a few moths and flies showing up.  Some of the flies were quite small, and some were extraordinarily small—not more than 1 or 2 mm in length.  Tiny little specks of life!  I thought it might be fun to get in some practice time with the 65mm lens, and the sampling shown below represents a few of those taken with the lens maxed out at 5X (resulting in a frame width of ~5mm):

Male non-biting midge (Chironomidae) | St. Louis Co., Missouri

Female non-biting midge (Chironomidae) | St. Louis Co., Missouri

Moth fly (Psychodidae) | St. Louis Co., Missouri

Same individual as above, chased onto a finished wooden table to highlight its dense pilosity

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
This entry was posted in Chionomidae, Diptera, Psychodidae and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Itty bitty tiny little flies

  1. Paul Kaufman says:

    Happy Birthday! I’m very glad that you didn’t get carried off to the land of Oz with the twisters! Neat pictures of the tiny flies, that 65mm lens is amazing.

  2. Dave Rentz says:

    Stunning shots, Ted. I’ve never seen better of psychodids.
    Thanks a lot and steer clear of those twisters.

    Dave Rentz

  3. Gunnar says:

    Pretty!
    The moth fly belongs to the genus Psychoda, subgenus Tinearia. As far as I can remember you have 3 species of it in North America, the most common being P. alternata.

  4. A belated happy birthday Ted! You have developed a nice tradition to recognize your natal day AND kick off the new bug season!

  5. Well, you know what they say, April Tornadoes bring Birthday Fly Photos! At least I think that’s how it goes…

    Anywho, great photos Ted! Being a Nikon shooter I’m very envious of that 65-MPE lens, especially when you show off with shots like these! Glad to see flies taking over the beetle blog again!

  6. James C. Trager says:

    Wow, Ted!
    Consider one of your birthday presents as seeing these images and realizing you keep getting better and better at using that lens.

    • Hmm… Actually I was kinda not real happy with these except for the last one, as they didn’t have the crispness I was hoping for. All I can say is using the MP-E at 5x hand-held outside at night is hard.

  7. Pingback: Bolas spiders: masters of deception | spiderbytes

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