Leafcutter ants are a common sight in the Brazilian cerrado. I admit to being apathetic when it comes to photographing them. In order for me to turn my lens on them, something unusual generally has to be happening. In this case, I first noticed something odd occurring around one of the nest entrances. Looking closer, I could see the ants were being attacked by a small fly. I had read about that, but had never seen it personally. Intrigued, I figured I’d spend a few minutes shooting, even though I fully expected to end up with nothing usable. I was pleasantly surprised that one of the images managed to get both an ant and the fly in focus.
The fly was almost constantly in motion, occasionally dive bombing an ant. I assume this is a female fly in the family Phoridae. Look carefully above and you can see the fly’s ovipositor.
At one point I saw a fly at rest near the nest entrance, possibly the same fly as above.
The wing venation, patterned eyes, and even the horns on the scutellum suggest this is a soldier fly in the family Stratiomyidae. Many soldier flies bear a resemblance to wasps. This one kind of reminds me of a yellowjacket.
I start with low expectations whenever I try to identify a fly. I’m happy if I get to family, but I think I got as far as genus on this one. This female fruit fly in the family Tephritidae might be an Anastrepha species.
These mysterious larvae were found underneath a piece of wood. At first I didn’t notice them as my eyes fixed on other more obvious things. Then I spotted one or two and thought perhaps they were some sort of plant tubers as they didn’t move at all. Even after picking up a few and examining them I still wasn’t convinced it was animal and not vegetable. In the hand, they felt stout and unyielding. After some test shots so I could zoom in for a closer look I still wasn’t sure. In the end I gathered some together for the shot above.
Looking now at the full resolution image, it’s clear they are some sort of larvae because I can make out mouth parts. I don’t see any legs, so I’m going to guess they are dipteran larvae.
These two flies are sharing a meal.
I can easily identify the larger one as a micropezid.
I’m not sure about the smaller one though.
Here’s another micropezid, waving its front legs like they are apt to do.
This one looks a lot like the one I found ovipositing.
I spotted this little fly on the underside of a large leaf. I was really thrilled to find something so unusual. I probably spent about a half hour chasing it around from one perch to another. Luckily, it always flew just a short distance.
I had heard of antler flies before, and I figured this was a good candidate to be one. Initial internet searches using that phrase didn’t turn up anything though. On a whim I tried searching for “hammerhead fly” since that seemed like an obvious common name for this fly. That turned out to be a good guess, and I found lots of similar looking images of Richardia telescopica in the family Richardiidae. I’ve been unable to eliminate the possibility of similar looking species. If not for that uncertainty, I’d have made this into an identification challenge.
This “species of the day” page has some excellent illustrations and a bit of info on Richardia telescopica. The length mentioned there (15mm) seems off though. The same illustration appears in one of my references and it includes a scale which is consistent with the size I measured for this specimen.
Here’s a nice YouTube video of a similar species, Plagiocephalus latifrons.
While recently reviewing my shots of this fly in the family Micropezidae, I was surprised to find that I unknowingly got a shot of her laying an egg. Here’s another shot for comparison, where she has concealed her ovipositor beneath her abdomen.
Here’s a crop from the first photo, showing the ovipositor and the egg.
Everything I’ve read indicates that most larvae develop in decomposing matter, so it seems strange she would be placing an egg on a leaf surface. Perhaps this is just a method of random distribution, and the egg just falls where it may on the ground below.
I saw lots of micropezids, also called stilt-legged flies, during my stay. They are fairly easy to recognize with their long legs and curious behavior. I usually see them on leaf surfaces like this, walking around and waving their forelegs in front of them like antennae. This behavior combined with their overall form gives them the appearance of an ant or a wasp perhaps.