Believe it or not, flies are not my favorite insects, but there is an abundance of them in my garden right now. Do I have garbage out there? No, some very unusual flowers are attracting the flies, like the flower shown here. If you were sitting where I was to take this photo, you would think there was a garbage pile nearby. The odor was quite unpleasant.
This plant is a succulent in the genus Euphorbia. The plant deceives carrion and dung flies by producing odors that mimic decay. The flies are expecting to find some yummy rotting flesh or droppings to eat and lay their eggs on, but instead only find a devious plant.
Here is a fly that has been tricked:
As it turns out, another similar plant is also flowering in my yard this week. This plant has bizarre red, star-shaped flowers. It is called Stapelia. It also mimics carrion.
Here is a green bottle fly that has been fooled. I have often seen thin white eggs in the centers of the Stapelia flower, laid by confused flies.
Take a look at this close up. You can see the pollen on the bottle fly’s thorax (behind the head). These plants are misleading the flies in order to be pollinated, and it seems to be working.
Carrion-mimicking flowers can go to real extremes to attract their pollinators. Two of the largest flowers in the world are big stinkers. The Rafflesia flower can be three feet wide, making it the biggest flower. The titan arum is definitely the tallest, reaching up to seven feet! Check the Library of Congress for some amazing pictures.
Hopefully the backyard jungle will smell better next week.
Just went out to check the aphids on the asparagus fern from last week. As I predicted, the aphids have virtually disappeared. I saw a few at the very tips of a couple of plant stems.
Insects have definite seasons and cycles, and it is worthwhile to pay attention to them. It can save you money, time and effort if you realize the pests are going to go away on their own.
Ants are particularly known for this. I think one reason there are so many wacky home remedies for ants is because people do something and when they check again, the ants are gone. The thing is, ants are highly mobile and it is likely they would have moved even if the homeowner had done nothing. (That isn't to say there aren't some useful home remedies, because there are.) When it comes to insects, being a procrastinator can really pay off.
Stalking the wild insects in my garden this morning, I was surprised to find these tiny bugs on my asparagus fern. Do you know what they are? I'll give you some hints. They like cool weather, they tend to build up quickly on the growing tips or buds of plants, and lady beetles love them.
I also found this fly hovering nearby. At first I thought it was a flower fly (Family Syrphidae). Flower flies lay their eggs near aphids (yes, those are aphids). Their larvae eat aphids, and I find them all the time on infested plants. But flower flies tend to have a shorter, wider abdomen (that is the back section in insects), and mimic bees. I think this one is a thick-headed fly instead (Family Conopidae), because it has a thin waist more like a wasp. One way I can tell she isn't a wasp is the fact she has two wings. Wasps have four.
She was definitely laying eggs, as you can see here.
Where do you go to identify unknown insects like this one? One great place to start is whatsthatbug.com.
By the way, I don't need to control these aphids, because they will be gone soon. I spotted flower fly larvae and parasitic wasps already at work. For now they are providing some entertainment and drama in the backyard jungle.